Development of M@C-dot (M= Fe3+, Gd3+, Mn2+) based MRI contrast agents

Project Title:      Development of M@C-dot (M= Fe3+, Gd3+, Mn2+) based MRI contrast agents

Project Duration:    May 22 – July 28, 2017 (10 weeks), 40 hours per week.

Project Mentors:

  • Primary Faculty Mentor (Name, Affiliation, website and Email/Phone):

Dr. Jin Xie, Ph.D

Assistant professor, Department of Chemistry


Phone: (706)-542-1933


  • PostDoc mentor (Name, Affiliation and Email/Phone):

Dr. Hongmin Chen, Ph.D

Department of Chemistry


Phone: (706)-542-2216


Project Description:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the most widely used diagnostic tools in the clinic. To improve the imaging quality, MRI contrast agents are often injected before or during MRI scans. The most commonly used clinical T1 contrast agents are Gd(III) based complexes. However, Gd(III) may be released from the chelates in vivo, causing systemic toxicity to the host, including nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). In this project, we aim to investigate M@C-dots (M= Fe3+, Gd3+, Mn2+) as a novel type of MRI contrast agent. These nanoparticles will be prepared through a novel, mesoporous silica nanoparticle (MSN)-templated synthetic approach. Briefly, transition metal chelates will be loaded into MSNs of small pore sizes and calcined to grow metal-encapsulated carbon nanoparticles. The silica template will then be removed to yield M@C-dots of narrow size distribution. Our previous studies show that M@C-dots afford high r1 relaxivity. Meanwhile, because carbon is not biodegradable, there is no risk of metal release to the surroundings, minimizing nanoparticle cytotoxicity.
REU Student Role and Responsibility:

The student will be synthesizing MSNs and using these particle as nanoreactors to prepare M@C-dots (M= Fe3+, Gd3+, Mn2+). He/she will then use TEM and DLS to characterize these nanoparticles, and use dialysis and ICP to investigate their metal release in biologically relevant environments. He/she will also be investigating nanoparticles’ cytotoxicity against a panel of cell lines.


Expected Outcome for REU student:

The results of the project will be included in our next NSF proposal, and the REU student’s contribution will be appreciated. The results of the project will be published in peer-reviewed articles. The student will be a cu-author on the paper.