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Research Project

MRI contrast agent

Magnetic nanoparticles have been shown to enhance contrast in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by modulating the magnetic relaxation processes of the proton in water molecules within tissues. Relaxivity of MRI contrast agents increases manifold by interaction with protein surface. Interaction between protein surfaces and magnetic complexes effect large number of water molecules for hydration and play important role in enhancing proton relaxation. The presence of large protein surfaces in composite systems containing a traditional contrast agent (or other magnetic complexes) can act as an amplifier of proton relaxivity.

We are utilizing protein nanocages as templates for development of Fer_MRIhybrid ferromagnetic nanoparticles (contrast agent). These protein nanocages are formed from multiple subunits which self-assemble resulting in extremely narrow size distribution. Molecular cargos can be encapsulated or released by modulating the self-assembly property of these subunits. In our investigation, we are using Archaeoglobus fulgidus ferritin (AfFtn), a multi-subunit protein where 24 subunits self assemble in the presence of metal ions (Fe2+) and form a spherical shell with a central cavity where metal oxide complex remains bound. The central cavity (~8 nm) can accommodate thousands of metal ions and water molecules can diffuse through channels formed at interfaces of two subunits. Furthermore, protein cages can be chemically and/or genetically modified to attach a ligand for targeting particular tissue or organ of interest.