Tumor Contrast Imaging with Gas Vesicles by Circumventing the Reticuloendothelial System

Judy Yan, Melissa Yin, F. Stuart Foster, Christine E.M. Démoré
Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology2020
Gas vesicles (GVs) are nanosized structures (45–800 nm) and have been reported to produce non-linear contrast signals, making them an attractive agent for molecular targeting of tumors. One barrier to their use for pre-clinical oncology studies is rapid uptake into the reticuloendothelial system (RES) and consequent rapid decrease in contrast signal after infusion ends and low signal on reperfusion after a bubble burst sequence. The purpose of this study was to examine suppression of the RES and surface modification of GVs to prolong contrast circulation in tumors for ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound imaging to measure dynamics of contrast signal intensity in tumor models was carried out using a 21-MHz high-frequency array transducer with the Vevo 2100 ultrasound system. The non-linear contrast signal from intravenously injected GVs compared with peak enhancement was measured during contrast wash-out and on reperfusion after a contrast burst sequence. Disrupting the RES by saturating the macrophage population or chemically inhibiting the Kupffer cell population with gadolinium or Intralipid preserves 62%–88% of GVs’ contrast enhancement relative to peak during the wash-out phase and 32%–56% on reperfusion compared with 38% and 14%, respectively, for no disruption of the RES, indicating longer circulation of GVs in the tumor. Additionally, coating the GVs with 2-, 5- or 10-kDa polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains resulted in >70% contrast signal retention in the tumors during wash-out and, for 5- or 10-kDa PEG chains, a return to >45% of peak contrast signal on reperfusion. These findings indicate that GVs can be used as a contrast agent for tumor imaging and that disruption of the RES improved recirculation and maintained contrast enhancement caused by GVs in the tumors.
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