Negative contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods using magnetic susceptibility shifting agents have become one of the most important approaches in cellular imaging research. However, visualizing and tracking labeled cells on the basis of negative contrast is often met with limited specifi city and sensitivity. Here we report on a MRI method for cellular imaging that generates a new contrast with a distinct topology for identifying labeled cells that has the potential to signifi cantly improve both the sensitivity and the specifi city. Specifi cally, we show that low fl ip-angle steady-state free precession MRI can be used to generate fast threedimensional images of tissue that can be rapidly processed to generate quantitative metrics enabling color overlays indicative of regions containing labeled cells. The technique substantially improves the ability of MRI for detecting labeled cells by overcoming the fundamental limits that currently plague negative contrast methods.
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