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Imaging Self-Healing Hydrogels and Chemotherapeutics Using CEST MRI at 3 T

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posted on 2021-06-02, 15:49 authored by Xiongqi Han, Joseph Ho Chi Lai, Jianpan Huang, Se Weon Park, Yang Liu, Kannie Wai Yan Chan
Imaging hydrogel-based local drug delivery to the brain after tumor resection has implications for refining treatments, especially for brain tumors with poor prognosis and high recurrence rate. Here, we developed a series of self-healing chitosan–dextran (CD)-based hydrogels for drug delivery to the brain. These hydrogels are injectable, self-healing, mechanically compatible, and detectable by chemical exchange saturation transfer magnetic resonance imaging (CEST MRI). CD hydrogels have an inherent CEST contrast at 1.1 ppm, which decreases as the stiffness increases. We further examined the rheological properties and CEST contrast of various chemotherapeutic-loaded CD hydrogels, including gemcitabine (Gem), doxorubicin, and procarbazine. Among these formulations, Gem presented the best compatibility with the rheological (G′: 215.3 ± 4.5 Pa) and CEST properties of CD hydrogels. More importantly, the Gem-loaded CD hydrogel generated another CEST readout at 2.2 ppm (11.6 ± 0.1%) for monitoring Gem. This enabled independent and simultaneous imaging of the drug and hydrogel integrity using a clinically relevant 3 T MRI scanner. In addition, the Gem-loaded CD hydrogel exhibited a longitudinal antitumor efficacy of Gem over a week in vitro. Furthermore, the CD hydrogel could be visualized by CEST after brain injection with a contrast of 7.38 ± 2.31%. These natural labels on both the chemotherapeutics and hydrogels demonstrate unique image-guided local drug delivery for brain applications.

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