The development of novel and effective contrast agents is one of the drivers of the ongoing improvement in medical imaging. Many of the new agents reported are nanoparticle-based. There are a variety of natural nanoparticles known, e.g. lipoproteins, viruses or ferritin. Natural nanoparticles have advantages as delivery platforms such as biodegradability. In addition, our understanding of natural nanoparticles is quite advanced, allowing their adaptation as contrast agents. They can be labeled with small molecules or ions such as Gd(3+) to act as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging, (18)F to act as positron emission tomography contrast agents or fluorophores to act as contrast agents for fluorescence techniques. Additionally, inorganic nanoparticles such as iron oxide, gold nanoparticles or quantum dots can be incorporated to add further contrast functionality. Furthermore, these natural nanoparticle contrast agents can be re-routed from their natural targets via the attachment of targeting molecules. In this review, we discuss the various modified natural nanoparticles that have been exploited as contrast agents.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.