There is no doubt that magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents (MRI CAs) can play a vital role in diagnosing diseases. Therefore, demand for new MRI CAs with an enhanced sensitivity and advanced functionalities is very high. Here, paramagnetic nanoparticles (NPs) are reviewed as new potential candidates for either T1 or T2 MRI CAs or both. These include surface coated lanthanide (Ln) oxide NPs (Ln = Gd, Dy, and Ho) and manganese oxide NPs. Surface coating materials should be biocompatible and hydrophilic. Compared to conventional large NPs, these surface coated paramagnetic NPs can be made ultrasmall with core particle diameter ranging from 1 to 3 nm, but their magnetic properties are still sufficient for MRI CAs. At this particle diameter, they can be easily excreted from the body through the renal system, which is prerequisite for in vivo applications. Mixed lanthanide oxide NPs into which a fluorescent Ln material is incorporated will be valuable as multiple imaging agents for both MRI-fluorescent imaging (FI) and MRI-cellular imaging (CL). These paramagnetic NPs can be further functionalized towards target-specific imaging, multiplex imaging, and drug delivery.
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