Free radicals are critical contributors in various conditions including normal aging, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes. Currently there is no non-invasive approach to image tissue free radicals based on endogenous contrast due to their extremely short lifetimes and low in vivo concentrations. In this study we aim at characterizing the influence of free radicals on the MRI relaxation properties. Phantoms containing free radicals were created by treating egg white with various H2O2 concentrations and scanned on a 9.4 T MRI scanner at room temperature. T1 and T2 relaxation maps were generated from data acquired with an inversion recovery sequence with varied inversion times and a multi-echo spin echo sequence with varied echo times (TEs), respectively. Results demonstrated that free radicals express a strong shortening effect on T1, which was proportional to the H2O2 concentration, and a relatively small reduction in T2 (<10%). Furthermore, the sensitivity of this approach in the detection of free radicals was estimated to be in the pM range that is within the physiological range of in vivo free radical expression. In conclusion, the free radicals show a strong paramagnetic effect that may be utilized as an endogenous MRI contrast for its non-invasive in vivo imaging.
Free radicals Reactive oxygen species Proton relaxation properties MRI
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The authors acknowledge the Department of Radiology and the 3 T Program of the Center of Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine for research support. The authors are also grateful for the valuable discussions with Lin Z. Li and He N. Xu from the Britton Chance redox lab at the University of Pennsylvania.
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