Our group has developed in collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano spin-off company FluorIT Srl a novel contrast agent possessing excellent cellular compatibility, and whose spectral properties, relaxation times, and sensitivity are excellent for in vivo 19F-MRI applications. The overall concept underpinning our technology is illustrated by the unique properties of a novel fluorinated molecule recently reported by our group. This molecule called PERFECTA (suPERFluorinatEd ContrasT Agent) bears 36 equivalent 19F atoms and therefore shows a single, intense NMR peak. PERFECTA is neither perfluorinated nor contains long perfluoroalkyl chains like current competing molecules, thus being more environmental compliant and avoiding bioaccumulation issues. Furthermore, it possesses a hydrocarbon polar core with ether bonds, thus offering the possibility for biodegradation in vivo. PERFECTA can be easily formulated in water in large quantities with trivial methods and surfactants and its excellent 19F-MRI performance was demonstrated both in in vitro imaging of labeled cells and in vivo, on rats. Finally, PERFECTA’s molecular structure can be easily modified yielding several asymmetrically substituted derivatives, thus opening up a plethora of new possible applications in the field of multimodal imaging platforms and theranostics. For example, functionalization with a thiol group allowed to bind to gold nanoparticles (Au-NPs), while the introduction of a fluorescent chromophore allows to combine MRI and optical imaging.
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