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Gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) are in widespread use to enhance magnetic resonance imaging for evaluating vascular pathology. However, safety concerns and limitations regarding the use of GBCAs has led to an increased interest in alternative contrast agents. Previously, methemoglobin (metHb) and oxygen-free hemoglobin (HHb) have been shown to increase the T1-weighted signal intensity of blood, which is associated with a decrease in the T1 parameter and an enhanced contrast of the image. Thus, a lower T1 value compared to the baseline value is favorable for imaging. However, it is unknown as to whether metHb or HHb would be a stronger and more appropriate contrast agent and to what extent the T1-weighted signal is affected by concentration. This study evaluated T1-weighted images of blood samples over a range of metHb and HHb concentrations, as well as ferrous nitrosyl hemoglobin (HbIINO) concentrations. Comparison of T1 values from a baseline value of ~ 1500 ms showed that metHb is the strongest contrast agent (T1 ~ 950 ms at 20% metHb) and that HHb is a relatively weak contrast agent (T1 ~ 1450 ms at 20% HHb). This study showed for the first time that HbIINO can provide a contrast effect, although not as strong as metHb but stronger than HHb (T1 estimated as 1250 ms at 20% HbIINO). With metHb providing a viable contrast between 10 and 20%, metHb has the potential to be a safe and effective contrast agent since it can be naturally converted back to hemoglobin. © 2023. The Author(s) under exclusive licence to Biomedical Engineering Society.


Roya Ayati, Kyle C Manwaring, Steven P Allen, Ronald W Day, Randy S Lewis. Comparison of Methemoglobin, Deoxyhemoglobin, and Ferrous Nitrosyl Hemoglobin as Potential MRI Contrast Agents. Annals of biomedical engineering. 2023 Sep;51(9):2013-2020

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PMID: 37270456

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