Nanoprobes for Multimodal Visualization of Bone Mineral Phase in Magnetic Resonance and Near-Infrared Optical Imaging


Imaging agents with affinity for bone can enable early detection of changes to bone mineral density, which is a hallmark of many bone-associated pathologies such as Paget’s disease and osteoporosis. Here, we report the development of a polymer nanoparticle (NP)-based multimodal imaging probe that enables visualization of bone mineral phase in near-infrared (NIR) optical tomography and detection in T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide was first encapsulated in NPs derived by blending poly(dl-lactic-co-glycolic acid)–poly(ethylene glycol) (PLGA–PEG) with N-hydroxysuccinimide functionalized-PLGA (NHS–PLGA). Postmodification of NHS surface functionality on the NPs with alendronic acid (Aln), a bone-targeting ligand, yielded stable ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (USPIONs) containing NPs that exhibit good serum stability and favorable cytocompatibility. These post-Aln-modified NPs exhibit 8- to 10-fold higher affinity for synthetic and biogenic hydroxyapatite in comparison to NPs where Aln was introduced before NP formation and shorten the T2 relaxation times in both agarose phantoms and fresh spongy bone, thus enabling the interrogation of bone mineral phase in T2-MRI. Finally, by introducing an NIR-dye-modified PLGA during the NP formation step, NP probes that enable the visualization of bone mineral phase in both NIR optical tomography and MRI have been realized. The system presented herein meets many of the criteria for clinical translation and therefore opens new opportunities for bone imaging and targeted therapeutics.
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