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J Biol Inorg Chem. 2014 Dec;19(8):1385-98. doi: 10.1007/s00775-014-1200-z. Epub 2014 Oct 11.

Characterization of a lanthanide complex encapsulated with MRI contrast agents into liposomes for biosensor imaging of redundant deviation in shifts (BIRDS).

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA,


Purposely designed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) probes encapsulated in liposomes, which alter contrast by their paramagnetic effect on longitudinal (T₁) and transverse (T₂) relaxation times of tissue water, hold promise for molecular imaging. However, a challenge with liposomal MRI probes that are solely dependent on enhancement of water relaxation is lack of specific molecular readouts, especially in strong paramagnetic environments, thereby reducing the potential for monitoring disease treatment (e.g., cancer) beyond the generated MRI contrast. Previously, it has been shown that molecular imaging with magnetic resonance is also possible by detecting the signal of non-exchangeable protons emanating from paramagnetic lanthanide complexes themselves [e.g., TmDOTP⁵⁻, which is a Tm³⁺ -containing biosensor based on a macrocyclic chelate 1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane-1,4,7,10-tetrakis(methylene phosphonate), DOTP⁵⁻] with a method called biosensor imaging of redundant deviation in shifts (BIRDS). Here, we show that BIRDS is useful for molecular imaging with probes like TmDOTP⁵⁻ even when they are encapsulated inside liposomes with ultrastrong T₁and T₂contrast agents (e.g., Magnevist and Molday ION, respectively). We demonstrate that molecular readouts such as pH and temperature determined from probes like TmDOTP⁵⁻ are resilient, because the sensitivity of the chemical shifts to the probe's environment is not compromised by the presence of other paramagnetic agents contained within the same nanocarrier milieu. Because high liposomal encapsulation efficiency allows for robust MRI contrast and signal amplification for BIRDS, nanoengineered liposomal probes containing both monomers, TmDOTP⁵⁻ and paramagnetic contrast agents, could allow high spatial resolution imaging of disease diagnosis (with MRI) and status monitoring (with BIRDS).

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