Superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles have been produced and used successfully as potent contrast agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). However, a significant challenge associated with the biological application of SPIO-tracer agents is their behavior in vivo since their efficacy is often compromised due to a rapid recognition and clearance by the reticuloendothelial system (RES) which limits the applicability of such compounds in MRI. The advances in nanotechnology and molecular cell biology had lead to improve stability and biocompatibility of these nanoparticles, but despite a number of efforts, the SPIO half-life in blood circulation is very short. In this contest, the potential of red blood cells (RBCs) loaded with SPIO nanoparticles as a tracer material for MRI has been investigated in order to realize a blood pool tracer with longer blood retention time. Previously, we have proposed the encapsulation into RBCs of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles carboxydextran coated, such as Resovist contrast agent. This approach led to a nanoparticle reduction in uptake by the RES, increasing the blood circulation half-life of nanoparticles. Recently, the loading procedure was applied to a new contrast agent, the P904 ultrasmall
superparamagnetic iron oxide (USPIO) nanoparticles coated by hydrophilic derivatives of glucose, recently developed by Guerbet Laboratories. The results evidenced that this nanomaterial can be efficiently loaded into human and murine
RBCs at concentrations ranging from 1.5 to 12 mM Fe. In vivo experiments performed in mice have showed an increased survival in the mouse vascular system of P904 encapsulated into RBCs respect to free P904 sample intravenously injected at the equivalent amounts.