Nano-Sensors and Targeted Contrast Agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a powerful diagnostic technique, widely applied in the clinic and in pre-clinical research, offering several advantages such as non-invasive imaging, deep tissue penetration, and superior spatial resolution. Magnetic contrast agents are routinely used to enhance image contrast, and help discriminate between different tissues.

Magnetic NanoParticles (MNPs) have also been proposed as MRI contrast agents thanks to their ability to increase the transverse relaxation rate (R2) and bring negative contrast. Additionally, MNPs have been applied extensively in drug delivery and therapy (including chemotherapy) when conjugated with drugs, and in targeted molecular and biomolecular imaging. The development of targeted MNPs allows reduction of doses and selective delivery to malignant tissues. Objective of this project is the development of novel probes for Magnetic Resonance Imaging applications.

Specifically, we aim to:

  • develop MR imaging MNPs capable of reporting quantitatively on the cellular microenvironment;
  • design targeted nanoprobes with increased molecular specificity and sensitivity to target cellular and tissue compartments otherwise inaccessible to conventional contrast agents;
  • develop novel contrast agents able to perform multi-modal imaging by combination of MRI with other diagnostic techniques, such as optical imaging or PET.
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