Co-electrospraying of tumour cell mimicking hollow polymeric microspheres for diffusion magnetic resonance imaging

Feng Lei Zhou, Hui Hui Wu, Damien J. McHugh, Ian Wimpenny, Xun Zhang, Julie E. Gough, Penny L. Hubbard Cristinacce, Geoff J.M. Parker

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Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) is considered as a useful tool to study solid tumours. However, the interpretation of dMRI signal and validation of quantitative measurements of is challenging. One way to address these challenges is by using a standard reference material that can mimic tumour cell microstructure. There is a growing interest in using hollow polymeric microspheres, mainly prepared by multiple steps, as mimics of cells in healthy and diseased tissue. The present work reports on tumour cell-mimicking materials composed of hollow microspheres for application as a standard material in dMRI. These microspheres were prepared via one-step co-electrospraying process. The shell material was poly(D,L-lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) polymers with different molecule weights and/or ratios of glycolic acid-to-lactic, while the core was polyethylene glycol (PEG) or ethylene glycol. The resultant co-electrosprayed products were characterised by optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and synchrotron X-ray micro-CT. These products were found to have variable structures and morphologies, e.g. from spherical particles with/without surface hole, through beaded fibres to smooth fibres, which mainly depend on PLGA composition and core materials. Only the shell material of PLGA polymer with ester terminated, Mw 50,000–75,000 g mol −1 , and lactide:glycolide 85:15 formed hollow microspheres via the co-electrospraying process using the core material of 8 wt% PEG/chloroform as the core. A water-filled test object (or phantom) was designed and constructed from samples of the material generated from co-electrosprayed PLGA microspheres and tested on a 7 T MRI scanner. The preliminary MRI results provide evidence that hollow PLGA microspheres can restrict/hinder water diffusion as cells do in tumour tissue, implying that the phantom may be suitable for use as a quantitative validation and calibration tool for dMRI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-227
Number of pages11
JournalMaterials Science and Engineering C
Early online date19 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Co-electrospraying
  • Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging
  • Hollow microspheres
  • Phantom
  • Tumour cells

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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