Clinical imaging is widely used to detect, characterize and stage cancers in addition to monitoring the therapeutic progress. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) aided by contrast agents utilizes the differential relaxivity property of water to distinguish between tumorous and normal tissue. Here, we describe an MRI contrast method for the detection of cancer using a sugar alcohol, maltitol, a common low caloric sugar substitute that exploits the chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) property of the labile hydroxyl group protons on maltitol (malCEST). In vitro studies pointed toward concentration and pH-dependent CEST effect peaking at 1 ppm downfield to the water resonance. Studies with control rats showed that intravenously injected maltitol does not cross the intact blood-brain barrier (BBB). In glioma carrying rats, administration of maltitol resulted in the elevation of CEST contrast in the tumor region only owing to permeable BBB. These preliminary results show that this method may lead to the development of maltitol and other sugar alcohol derivatives as MRI contrast agents for a variety of preclinical imaging applications.
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