Liposome-based chemical exchange saturation transfer (lipoCEST) agents have shown great sensitivity and potential for molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Here we demonstrate that the size of liposomes can be exploited to enhance the NpoCEST contrast. A concise analytical model is developed to describe the contrast dependence on size for an ensemble of liposomes. The model attributes the increased lipoCEST contrast in smaller liposomes to their larger surface-to-volume ratio, causing an increased membrane water exchange rate. Experimentally measured rates correlate with size, in agreement with the model. The water permeability of liposomal membrane is found to be 1.11 ± 0.14 μm/s for the specific lipid composition at 22°C. Availability of the model allows rational design of the size of liposomes and quantification of their properties. These new theoretical and experimental tools are expected to benefit applications of liposomes to sensing the cellular environment, targeting and imaging biological processes, and optimizing drug delivery properties.
ASJC Scopus subject areas