The ability of chelated Gd to serve as an effective magnetic resonance (MR) contrast agent largely depends on fast exchange rates between the Gd-bound water molecules and the surrounding bulk water. Because water diffuses slowly across lipid bilayers, liposomes with encapsulated chelated Gd have not been widely adopted as MR contrast agents. To overcome this limitation, we have synthesized chemically stabilized, porous polymersomes with encapsulated gadolinium (Gd) chelates. The polymerosmes, 125 nm in diameter, were produced from the aqueous assembly of diblock copolymers, PEO(1300)- b-PBD(2500) (PBdEO), and phospholipids, 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl- sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC). The PBdEO was cross-linked using a chemical initiator and the POPC was extracted with surfactant, generating a highly porous outer membrane. The encapsulated Gd chelates were attached to dendrimers to prevent their leakage through the pores. It was estimated that, on average, nearly 44 000 Gd were encapsulated within each polymersome. As a result of the slower rotational correlation time of Gd-labeled dendrimers and the porous outer membrane, the paramagnetic porous polymersomes exhibited an R1 relaxivity of 7.2 mM (-1) s (1-) per Gd and 315 637 mM (-1) s (-1) per vesicle. This corresponds to a relaxivity that is amplified by a factor of approximately 10 (5) compared with Gd-DTPA.
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