Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer Contrast Agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents have become an important tool in clinical medicine. The most common agents are Gd3+-based complexes that shorten bulk water T1 by rapid exchange of a single inner-sphere water molecule with bulk solvent water. Current gadolinium agents lack tissue specificity and typically do not respond to their chemical environment. Recently, it has been demonstrated that MR contrast may be altered by an entirely different mechanism based on chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST). CEST contrast can originate from exchange of endogenous amide or hydroxyl protons or from exchangeable sites on exogenous CEST agents. This has opened the door for the discovery of new classes of responsive agents ranging from MR gene reporter molecules to small molecules that sense their tissue environment and respond to biological events.


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