Nanoparticles suitable for multiple imaging modalities


Medical imaging plays an increasingly important role not only in disease diagnosis but also in monitoring the therapeutic treatment.  The principal medical imaging modalities include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), single-photon emission commuted tomography (SPECT), and optical imaging (OI).  However, each of these modalities suffer from their own limitations, and require their own tailored contrast agents or probes. For example, PET and SPECT are limited due to their low resolution, although both of them have excellent sensitivity. On the contrary, MR exhibits a high resolution but low sensitivity. OI has not only a good sensitivity but also a reasonable resolution; its in vivo applications are restricted, however, due to the problems of auto-fluorescence and poor penetration depth. 

Multimodal imaging was expected to overcome the respective restrictions of the individual imaging techniques and provide more accurate and complete physiological and anatomical information for diagnosis and therapy.  To date, however, suitable contrast agents are not in widespread use.



Members of the research team have previously generated bimodal core-shell nanoparticles (NP) suitable for optical and MR imaging.  Here they have extended previous technology to consist of a magnetic core and a fluorescent shell whose chemistry lends itself to high efficiency radiolabelling (as required for PET/SPECT). 


Generally, these nanoparticles are described as multimodal imaging contrast for MR, SPECT/PET and OI.  More specific applications include sentinel lymph node imaging, cell tracking, cancer imaging, and also they could be utilised as a visual guide during surgery.


  • shorter preparation time for both the patient and the hospital, since only one contrast agent is required and more than one imaging modality can be carried out at the same time.
  • reduced risk of being exposed to a radioactive environment for the clinician. A very high radiolabelling efficiency can be achieved in a short time (no more than 5 minutes)
  • reduced cost for the hospital. The radiolabelling method for these NPs is very simple, just mixing NPs and radioactivity together, so no costly special equipment and training are required.
  • no complicated and time-consuming purification process
  • lower dose for patient, since only one probe will be administered for all scans
  • more accurate and complete information can be achieved by multimodal imaging, which could help clinicians detect the disease at an early stage, as well as improve diagnosis and assessment of therapy.
  • less autofluorescence and a clearer background on optical imaging, since these NPs are up-converted and a 980 nm laser is used for excitation. 




Figure 1.: Schematic of Multimodal Nanoparticle (NP) highlighting how its various features permit application to Optical Imaging (OI), Magnetic Resonance imaging (MR), and/or PET/SPECT.


IP Position

A preliminary US patent application was filed as a priority application (in Sept 2013) and this has been followed (28 Aug 2014) by a Full US Patent Application (Application number: US 14/471,017)



We are seeking a commercial partner interested in evaluating and developing the particles for supply as research tools or to address specific clinical applications. Field exclusivity is available.


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Ceri Mathews
IP & Licensing Manager
King's College London
Xianjin Cui
Mark Green
Philip Blower