New long-circulating maghemite nanoparticles of 4 and 6 nm, coated with an apoferritin protein capsid, exhibit useful properties to act as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents. A full in vivo study of the so-called apomaghemites reveals that their long-term MRI properties are better than those of a standard superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) widely used in biomedical applications. The biodistribution of apomaghemites and standard SPIO was investigated by MRI in mice at two different concentrations, 6 and 2.5 mg of Fe·kg(-1), over 60 days. Significant differences are found at low dose (2.5 mg of Fe·kg(-1)). Thus, whereas apomaghemites are active for MR bioimaging of liver for 45 days, standard SPIO is not effective beyond 7 days. On the basis of our data, we may concluded that apomaghemites can act as new long-term MRI liver contrast agents, allowing first the diagnosis of a liver pathology and then monitoring after treatment without the need for a second injection.
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