Alternatives to Gadolinium in MRI diagnostics
Last year, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued a recommendation to suspend three widely used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents. The decision relates to major health concerns attributed to long-term effects of Gd-bearing contrast agents (GBCA). The release of the toxic rare earth metal Gadolinium (Gd) from these agents and its accumulation in the body and brain are at the heart of this decision. This is a clear message to carefully consider the necessity of each contrast injection to individuals undergoing an MRI scan. However, for a number of diagnostic procedures, the use of a contrast agent is mandatory. As the evidences regarding the accumulation of Gd in the body and brain of children and adults undergoing such contrast-enhanced MRI examinations continues to mount, alternatives are actively being sought. So far, such alternatives have mainly relied on other metal complexes.
With these directives and evidence in mind and with many populations already devoid of the ability to benefit from contrast-enhanced MRI due to other Gd related diseases and conditions, the scientific community is called to seek for radically new alternatives. In this joint European project, we are going to develop a new class of MRI contrast agents. These new MRI contrast agents will be metal-free, safe, and useful for injection during an MRI examination, leaving no traces behind. The agents to be developed will consist of small (endogenously available) molecules that will undergo a process of hyperpolarization, which will lead to a very high signal of the agent itself on the MRI images. These molecules are proposed for use either in their native form or as analogs labeled with the stable-isotopes; therefore, no ionizing radiation is involved.