There has been a recent surge of interest in the use of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) as contrast agents (CAs) for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), due to their tunable properties and their low toxicity compared with other CAs such as gadolinium. SPIONs exert a strong influence on spin-spin T2
relaxation times by decreasing the MR signal in the regions to which they are delivered, consequently yielding darker images or negative contrast. Given the potential of these nanoparticles to enhance detection of alterations in soft tissues, we studied the MRI response of hydrophobic or hydrophilic SPIONs loaded into liposomes (magnetoliposomes) of different lipid composition obtained by sonication. These hybrid nanostructures were characterized by measuring several parameters such as size and polydispersity, and number of SPIONs encapsulated or embedded into the lipid systems. We then studied the influence of acyl chain length as well as its unsaturation, charge, and presence of cholesterol in the lipid bilayer at high field strength (7 T) to mimic the conditions used in preclinical assays. Our results showed a high variability depending on the nature of the magnetic particles. Focusing on the hydrophobic SPIONs, the cholesterol-containing samples showed a slight reduction in r2
, while unsaturation of the lipid acyl chain and inclusion of a negatively charged lipid into the bilayer appeared to yield a marked increase in negative contrast, thus rendering these magnetoliposomes suitable candidates as CAs, especially as a liver CA.
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