Microglia are intrinsic components of the brain immune system and are activated in many central nervous system disorders. The ability to noninvasively image these cells would provide valuable information for both research and clinical applications. Today, most imaging probes for activated microglia are mainly designed for positron emission tomography (PET) and target translocator proteins that also reside on other cerebral cells. The PET images obtained are not specific for microglia-driven inflammation. Here, we describe a potential PET/MRI multimodal imaging probe that selectively targets the scavenger receptor class A (SR-A) expressed on activated microglia. These sulfated dextran-coated iron oxide (SDIO) nanoparticles are avidly taken up by microglia and appear to be nontoxic when administered intravenously in a mouse model. Intravenous administration of this SDIO demonstrated visualization by T2∗-weighted MRI of microglia activated by intracerebral administration of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). The contrast was significantly enhanced by SDIO, whereas there was little to no contrast change in animals treated with nontargeted nanoparticles or untreated controls. Thus, SR-A targeting represents a promising strategy to image activated microglia in the brain.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging