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Posted: April 30, 2008

Luna Innovations Successfully Demonstrates MRI Contrast Agent

(Nanowerk News) The product development team at the nanoWorks division of Luna Innovations Incorporated (NASDAQ:LUNA) has produced a novel class of molecules designed to provide a new approach to improve the quality of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Luna’s molecules have initially proven to be more effective at enhancing images and are potentially safer than current MRI agents. This new class of molecules provides a platform upon which Luna plans to build a portfolio of nanomedicines aimed at disease targeting and diagnostic imaging.
MRI is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that enables physicians to visualize organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures through magnetic interactions. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (x-rays). These medical imaging procedures are enhanced by the use of contrast agents to further improve diagnosis. The MRI contrast agent market is reported to be more than $1 billion annually and is currently dominated by gadolinium chelate-based agents which are the subject of class-action lawsuit concerns due to the potential release of gadolinium into the body.
The new class of molecules discovered by Luna is called HYDROCHALARONE™ — Hydro, meaning water, combined with Chalaro, the Greek word for relax. The level of relaxivity is the characteristic of molecules that provides the image enhancement. “The high relaxivity in Hydrochalarone means fewer molecules are needed to obtain a better quality image,” said Robert Lenk, President of Luna’s nanoWorks division. “Our studies demonstrate that our proprietary nanomaterials do not release gadolinium under conditions which are found in the human body. Our imaging studies in mice have shown Hydrochalarone improves image quality up to 30 minutes after injection at a dose 20 times lower than that used with current agents.”
"Achieving high magnetic resonance relaxivity with a small, biologically inert, chemical moiety that can be derivatized for targeted tissue delivery, cell tracking, or inclusion as part of a nanoparticle drug delivery vehicle is a Holy Grail within the fast evolving field of biomarker development,” said Dr. Joseph Ackerman renowned MRI researcher and Chemistry Department Chairman at Washington University in St. Louis. “The design and production of Hydrochalarones by scientists at Luna nanoWorks may herald such an advance."
Luna’s HYDROCHALARONE™ was selected for preclinical studies and a collaboration with National Cancer Institute’s Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL). “We hope within 12 months the NCL will provide us a complete preclinical package which will contribute to an Investigational New Drug application,” said Lenk. “The end goal of Luna’s product development effort with the Hydrochalarone is using it as a fundamental building block that will generate a portfolio of novel imaging agents targeted to reveal diagnostic information specific for a variety of different diseases, such as cancer tumors, sites of inflammation and plaque related to coronary artery diseases, as announced in our previous press release.”
“We are continuing to develop innovative new diagnostics and therapeutics based on our proprietary nanotechnologies which have the potential to change medical practice,” stated Kent Murphy, Luna’s Chairman and CEO. “According to the Food and Drug Administration, the use of today’s gadolinium chelate-based contrast agents may pose a significant health threat to patients, particularly in those with kidney or liver disease. With Luna’s new molecule, we anticipate the development of a portfolio of products based on a new approach to enhancing medical images and provide a better outcome for patients.”
For more information, visit
About Luna Innovations
Luna Innovations Incorporated ( develops and manufactures new-generation products for the healthcare, telecommunications, energy and defense markets. Luna’s products are used to measure, monitor, protect and improve critical processes in the markets we serve. Luna nanoWorks is a division of Luna Innovations. With a world-class nanomaterial manufacturing facility in Danville, Virginia, the nanoWorks Division is developing products empowered by nanomaterials with applications in diagnostics, therapeutics, and organic solar cells. For more information visit
Source: Luna Innovations
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