Non-caloric sweetener provides magnetic resonance imaging contrast for cancer detection

Puneet Bagga, Mohammad Haris, Kevin D'Aquilla, Neil E. Wilson, Francesco M. Marincola, Mitchell D. Schnall, Hari Hariharan, Ravinder Reddy

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Background: Image contrast enhanced by exogenous contrast agents plays a crucial role in the early detection, characterization, and determination of the precise location of cancers. Here, we investigate the feasibility of using a non-nutritive sweetener, sucralose (commercial name, Splenda), as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent for cancer studies. Methods: High-resolution nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectroscopy and MR studies on sucralose solution phantom were performed to detect the chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) property of sucralose hydroxyl protons with bulk water (sucCEST). For the animal experiments, female Fisher rats (F344/NCR) were used to generate 9L-gliosarcoma model. MRI with CEST experiments were performed on anesthetized rats at 9.4 T MR scanner. Following the baseline CEST scans, sucralose solution was intravenously administered in control and tumor bearing rats. CEST acquisitions were continued during and following the administration of sucralose. Following the sucCEST, Gadolinium-diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid was injected to perform Gd-enhanced imaging for visualizing the tumor. Results: The sucCEST contrast in vitro was found to correlate positively with the sucralose concentration and negatively with the pH, indicating the potential of this technique in cancer imaging. In a control animal, the CEST contrast from the brain was found to be unaffected following the administration of sucralose, demonstrating its blood-brain barrier impermeability. In a 9L glioma model, enhanced localized sucCEST contrast in the tumor region was detected while the unaffected brain region showed unaltered CEST effect implying the specificity of sucralose toward the tumorous tissue. The CEST asymmetry plots acquired from the tumor region before and after the sucralose infusion showed elevation of asymmetry at 1 ppm, pointing towards the role of sucralose in increased contrast. Conclusions: We show the feasibility of using sucralose and sucCEST in study of preclinical models of cancer. This study paves the way for the potential development of sucralose and other sucrose derivatives as contrast agents for clinical MRI applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2017



  • Cancer
  • CEST
  • Gadolinium
  • Glioma
  • MRI
  • Sucralose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

Bagga, P., Haris, M., D'Aquilla, K., Wilson, N. E., Marincola, F. M., Schnall, M. D., Hariharan, H., & Reddy, R. (2017). Non-caloric sweetener provides magnetic resonance imaging contrast for cancer detection. Journal of Translational Medicine, 15(1), [119].