Nano-sized and other improved reporters for magnetic resonance imaging of angiogenesis

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) enables to provide anatomical, functional and molecular information of pathological angiogenesis when used with properly tailored imaging probes. Functional studies have been the domain of Dynamic Contrast Enhancement (DCE) -MRI protocols from which it is possible to extract quantitative estimations on key parameters such as the volumes of vascular and extracellular compartments and the rates of the bidirectional exchange of the imaging reporters across the endothelial barrier. Whereas paramagnetic Gd-complexes able to reversibly bind to serum albumin act better than the clinically used small-sized, hydrophilic species, new findings suggest that an accurate assessment of the vascular volume is possible by analyzing images acquired upon the i.v. administration of Gd-labelled Red Blood Cells (RBCs). As far as it concerns molecular MRI, among the many available biomarkers, αvβ3 integrins are the most investigated ones. The low expression of these targets makes mandatory the use of nano-sized systems endowed with the proper signal enhancing capabilities. A number of targeted nano-particles have been investigated including micelles, liposomes, iron oxides and perfluorocarbon containing systems. Finally, a growing attention is devoted to the design and testing of “theranostic” agents based on the exploitation of MRI to monitor drug delivery processes and therapeutic outcome.

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