The Transition from Metal-Based to Metal-Free Contrast Agents for T1 Magnetic Resonance Imaging Enhancement

Ozioma Udochukwu Akakuru, M. Zubair Iqbal*, Madiha Saeed, Chuang Liu, Tatjana Paunesku, Gayle Woloschak, Narayan S. Hosmane, Aiguo Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

11 Scopus citations


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has received significant attention as the noninvasive diagnostic technique for complex diseases. Image-guided therapeutic strategy for diseases such as cancer has also been at the front line of biomedical research, thanks to the innovative MRI, enhanced by the prior delivery of contrast agents (CAs) into patients' bodies through injection. These CAs have contributed a great deal to the clinical utility of MRI but have been based on metal-containing compounds such as gadolinium, manganese, and iron oxide. Some of these CAs have led to cytotoxicities such as the incurable Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF), resulting in their removal from the market. On the other hand, CAs based on organic nitroxide radicals, by virtue of their structural composition, are metal free and without the aforementioned drawbacks. They also have improved biocompatibility, ease of functionalization, and long blood circulation times, and have been proven to offer tissue contrast enhancement with longitudinal relaxivities comparable with those for the metal-containing CAs. Thus, this Review highlights the recent progress in metal-based CAs and their shortcomings. In addition, the remarkable goals achieved by the organic nitroxide radical CAs in the enhancement of MR images have also been discussed extensively. The focal point of this Review is to emphasize or demonstrate the crucial need for transition into the use of organic nitroxide radicals - metal-free CAs - as against the metal-containing CAs, with the aim of achieving safer application of MRI for early disease diagnosis and image-guided therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2264-2286
Number of pages23
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 18 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry

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