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Magn Reson Med. 2009 Nov;62(5):1349-55. doi: 10.1002/mrm.22127.

Enhanced positive-contrast visualization of paramagnetic contrast agents using phase images.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences and Pittsburgh NMR Center for Biomedical Research, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Iron oxide-based MRI contrast agents are increasingly being used to noninvasively track cells, target molecular epitopes, and monitor gene expression in vivo. Detecting regions of contrast agent accumulation can be challenging if resulting contrast is subtle relative to endogenous tissue hypointensities. A postprocessing method is presented that yields enhanced positive-contrast images from the phase map associated with T(2)*-weighted MRI data. As examples, the method was applied to an agarose gel phantom doped with superparamagnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles and in vivo and ex vivo mouse brains inoculated with recombinant viruses delivering transgenes that induce overexpression of paramagnetic ferritin. Overall, this approach generates images that exhibit a 1- to 8-fold improvement in contrast-to-noise ratio in regions where paramagnetic agents are present compared to conventional magnitude images. This approach can be used in conjunction with conventional T(2)* pulse sequences, requires no prescans or increased scan time, and can be applied retrospectively to previously acquired data.

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