Researchers develop groundbreaking new graphene-based MRI contrast agent

SBU researchers develop groundbreaking new graphene-based MRI contrast agent
Figure: Representative transmission electron microscope (TEM) images of graphene nanoparticles (a-b).The dark spots (red arrow) in panel (a) are the manganese ions intercalated between the graphene sheets. The high resolution TEM images (b) show the planar graphene lattice planes.

( -- Dr. Balaji Sitharaman, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University, and a team of researchers developed a new, highly efficacious, potentially safer and more cost effective nanoparticle-based MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) contrast agent for improved disease diagnosis and detection.

The most recent findings are discussed in detail in his team’s research paper “Physicochemical characterization, and relaxometry studies of micro-graphite oxide, nanoplatelets, and nanoribbons,” published in the June 7 edition of the journal PLoS ONE.

The MRI, the technology for which was invented at Stony Brook University by Professor Paul Lauterbur, is one of the most powerful and central techniques in diagnostic medicine and biomedical research used primarily to render anatomical details for improved diagnosis of many pathologies and diseases. Currently, most MRI procedures use gadolinium-based contrast agents to improve the visibility and definition of disease detection. However, recent studies have shown harmful side effects, such as nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, stemming from the use of this contrast agent in some patients, forcing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to place restrictions on the clinical use of gadolinium. Further, most MRI are not suitable for extended-residence-intravascular (blood pool), or tissue (organ)-specific imaging, and do not allow molecular imaging.

To address the need for an MRI contrast agent that demonstrates greater effectiveness and lower toxicity, Dr. Sitharaman developed a novel high-performance graphene-based contrast agent that may replace the gadolinium-based agent which is widely used by physicians today. “A graphene-based contrast agent can allow the same clinical MRI performance at substantially lower dosages,” said Dr. Sitharaman. The project is a Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Translational Research Award winner and the recipient of a two-year translational grant to study preclinical safety and efficacy.

“The technology will lower health care costs by reducing the cost per dose as well as the number of doses required,” noted Dr. Sitharaman. “Further, since this new MRI contrast agent will substantially improve disease detection by increasing sensitivity and diagnostic confidence, it will enable earlier treatment for many diseases, which is less expensive, and of course more effective for diseases such as cancer.”

The new graphene-based imaging contrast agent is also the focus of Dr. Sitharaman’s start-up company, Theragnostic Technologies, Inc., which was incorporated in early 2012. The ongoing development of this technology is supported by industry expert and business advisor, Shahram Hejazi, and clinical experts Kenneth Shroyer, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pathology, Stony Brook University, and William Moore, MD, Chief of Thoracic Imaging, and Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology, Stony Brook University. Co-authors of the article include Department of research assistants Bhavna Paratala, Barry Jacobson and Shruti Kanakia; and Leonard Deepak Francis from the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Portugal.

Dr. Sitharaman’s research team focuses their interests at the interface of bionanotechnology, regenerative and molecular medicine. They seek to “synergize” the advancements in each of these fields to develop a dynamic research program that tackles problems related to the diagnosis and treatment of disease and tissue regeneration. Dr. Sitharaman received his BS with Honors from the Indian Institute of Technology and his PhD from Rice University, where he also completed his postdoctoral work as a J. Evans Attwell-Welch Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient.

Explore further

FDA wants MRI contrast agent warning

More information:
Journal information: PLoS ONE

Citation: Researchers develop groundbreaking new graphene-based MRI contrast agent (2012, June 8) retrieved 17 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 08, 2012
I pray that graphene isn't the new asbestos... a "wonder material" that can do it all so we put it everywhere and later discover a mechanism in which it causes cancer or cell death. How will they flush nanoparticles out of the system after the imaging is done?

But cheers to the new advancement! It will be a great day when we can do imaging without the need for radioactive injections

Jun 08, 2012
As a free ion, gadolinium is highly toxic, but MRI contrast agents are chelated compounds and are considered safe enough to be used in most persons. The toxicity therefore depends on the strength of the chelating agent.

Inhalation of graphite dust can cause lung disease, mostly in the form of mixed-dust pneumoconiosis in individuals working in the metallurgic industry or graphite mines. Graphite dust causes benign pneumoconiosis (graphitosis). Symptoms of pneumoconiosis from graphite dust exposure are dypsnea, coughing, black sputum, bronchitis, ventricular hypertrophy and impairment of pulmonary function. X-rays will show progressive nodulation of the lungs...

Jun 08, 2012
But these symptoms occur anywhere that fine dust particles are inhaled, hence the OSHA requirements for filters or air-supplied masks in occupations that experience these particles.

As far as I know, there's a lot less research on how nanoparticles much smaller than PM 2.5 detection limits interact with tissue, especially if it's injected directly into the body.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more