Polymer Assembly Encapsulation of Lanthanide Nanoparticles as Contrast Agents for in Vivo Micro-CT
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© 2018 American Chemical Society. Despite recent technological advancements in microcomputed tomography (micro-CT) and contrast agent development, preclinical contrast agents are still predominantly iodine-based. Higher contrast can be achieved when using elements with higher atomic numbers, such as lanthanides; lanthanides also have X-ray attenuation properties that are ideal for spectral CT. However, the formulation of lanthanide-based contrast agents at the high concentrations required for vascular imaging presents a significant challenge. In this work, we developed an erbium-based contrast agent that meets micro-CT imaging requirements, which include colloidal stability upon redispersion at high concentrations, evasion of rapid renal clearance, and circulation times of tens of minutes in small animals. Through systematic studies with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-poly(propylene glycol), PEG-polycaprolactone, and PEG-poly(l-lactide) (PLA) block copolymers, the amphiphilic block copolymer PEG114-PLA53 was identified to be ideal for encapsulating oleate-coated lanthanide-based nanoparticles for in vivo intravenous administration. We were able to synthesize a contrast agent containing 100 mg/mL of erbium that could be redispersed into colloidally stable particles in saline after lyophilization. Contrast enhancement of over 250 HU was achieved in the blood pool for up to an hour, thereby meeting the requirements of live animal micro-CT.