Dynamic contrast-enhanced CEST MRI using a low molecular weight dextran

Zheng Han, Chuheng Chen, Xiang Xu, Renyuan Bai, Verena Staedtke, Jianpan Huang, Kannie W.Y. Chan, Jiadi Xu, David O. Kamson, Zhibo Wen, Linda Knutsson, Peter C.M. van Zijl, Guanshu Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Natural and synthetic sugars have great potential for developing highly biocompatible and translatable chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) MRI contrast agents. In this study, we aimed to develop the smallest clinically available form of dextran, Dex1 (molecular weight, MW ~ 1 kDa), as a new CEST agent. We first characterized the CEST properties of Dex1 in vitro at 11.7 T and showed that the Dex1 had a detectable CEST signal at ~1.2 ppm, attributed to hydroxyl protons. In vivo CEST MRI studies were then carried out on C57BL6 mice bearing orthotopic GL261 brain tumors (n = 5) using a Bruker BioSpec 11.7 T MRI scanner. Both steady-state full Z-spectral images and single offset (1.2 ppm) dynamic dextran-enhanced (DDE) images were acquired before and after the intravenous injection of Dex1 (2 g/kg). The steady-state Z-spectral analysis showed a significantly higher CEST contrast enhancement in the tumor than in contralateral brain (∆MTRasym1.2 ppm = 0.010 ± 0.006 versus 0.002 ± 0.008, P = 0.0069) at 20 min after the injection of Dex1. Pharmacokinetic analyses of DDE were performed using the area under the curve (AUC) in the first 10 min after Dex1 injection, revealing a significantly higher uptake of Dex1 in the tumor than in brain tissue for tumor-bearing mice (AUC[0-10 min] = 21.9 ± 4.2 versus 5.3 ± 6.4%·min, P = 0.0294). In contrast, no Dex1 uptake was foundling in the brains of non-tumor-bearing mice (AUC[0-10 min] = −1.59 ± 2.43%·min). Importantly, the CEST MRI findings were consistent with the measurements obtained using DCE MRI and fluorescence microscopy, demonstrating the potential of Dex1 as a highly translatable CEST MRI contrast agent for assessing tumor hemodynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4649
JournalNMR in Biomedicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CEST
  • MRI
  • brain tumor
  • dextran
  • permeability


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