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  • 1 December 2018 to 31 March 2019
  • Awards: Pump-priming Awards

Immune cells are protagonists and potential therapeutic targets in many cardiovascular diseases. Despite this, there are almost no specific immunomodulatory therapeutic strategies for patients with cardiovascular disease, reflecting the fact that assessment of immune cell activity in the human cardiovascular system is extremely difficult due to (1) the lack of routine availability of human cardiac tissue and (2) the absence of non-invasive imaging techniques to measure immune cell types within the heart. 

We are currently working to develop a new magnetic resonance based approach with the potential to provide antibody-targeted molecular imaging in vivo by exploiting the remarkable magnetic properties of silicon nanoparticles. Unlike existing hyperpolarized 13C tracers, the quantum environment within the nanoparticles leads to long nuclear T1 and hence prolonged visibility of the MR signal following hyperpolarization. This grant has enabled the purchase of a preclinical 29Si coil which is essential for initial development work of this technology.

This project is a new collaboration established between Andrew Lewis (RDM), Damian Tyler (RDM), Ben Davies (Chemistry) and Daniel Anthony (pharmacology) to develop hyperpolarized silicon nanoparticles as a novel contrast agent for experimental magnetic resonance imaging of immune cells. If established, the development of hyperpolarized silicon has strong future clinical translational potential due to an excellent theoretical safety and biodegradability profile. Initial work underway towards development of hyperpolarized silicon MR imaging which could provide a powerful and versatile new tool for molecular cardiovascular imaging.