Targetable imaging agents




(Jacques Lux, Minnie Chan)

Current medical imaging technology detects structural manifestations of disease, meaning that diagnosis is only possible at a relatively late stage.  However, if imaging agents could be developed to enhance signal based on molecular changes, noninvasive imaging would allow earlier treatment.

Because of the promise of molecular imaging to radically change medical practice, we develop new targeted and sensing agents for magnetic resonance (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET).  Targeted agents accumulate preferentially in diseased tissues based on differences in permeability or through affinity for molecules on the surface of diseased cells, while sensing agents respond to molecular characteristics of disease. 

Useful targeted and sensing agents for MRI must enhance signal significantly so that distinguishing diseased from healthy tissue is straightforward.  As currently used MRI contrast agents, such as Magnevist, only enhance signal slightly, we first focused our efforts on improving upon these gadolinium chelators.  Working with Robert Mattrey, we have developed a contrast agent that enhances signal twice as well as Magnevist (Mol. Pharm., 2012).


Our agent enhances contrast in the kidneys.  Left, pre-administration; right, 8 minutes after.