A 2015 study showed that gadolinium, which is used in contrast-enhanced MRI scans, can stay in the body for up to 14 years. This caused many to panic, leading to a flourishing of new studies looking into how less gadolinium can be used, or, perhaps, even replaced.
Most recently, a study published in Investigative Radiology showed that a novel manganese-based contrast agent could help radiologists curb their use of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs), making contrast-enhanced MRIs safer.
The manganese-derived agent, known as Mn-PyC3A, may be safer than GBCAs, according to the authors, because manganese moves through the human body faster than gadolinium does. Furthermore, manganese is naturally found in the human body, while gadolinium isn’t.
In a press release, lead author Eric M. Gale, PhD, of Mass General and Harvard Medical School, wrote: “No confirmed side-effects have yet been irrefutably linked to the long-term presence of gadolinium in the body. But, since some people are repeatedly exposed to GBCAs, doctors want to be cautious.”
For the study, the team compared how well Mn-PyC3A can detect breast and metastatic liver tumors in mice compared to GBCAs. They found, on the whole, that the two agents did a comparable job to one another with regards to tumor contrast enhancement. And, perhaps even more encouraging for the team, MnPyC3A was “more completely eliminated” from the mice than the GBCAs were.
In the fight to replace gadolinium, it seems that manganese may be well on its way to first place.