Superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles are a relatively large class of contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging. According to their biodistribution, distinct classes of SPIO nanoparticles have been investigated for clinical applications either as macrophage imaging agents or blood pool agents. Contrast agents which are pharmaceutics followed the same development rules as therapeutic drugs. Several drawbacks such as clinical development difficulties, organization of market access and imaging technological developments have limited the widespread use of these products. SPIO nanoparticles that are composed of thousands iron atoms providing large T2* effects are particularly suitable for theranostic. Stem cell migration and immune cell trafficking, as well as targeted SPIO nanoparticles for molecular imaging studies are mainly at the stage of proof of concept. A major economic challenge in the development of molecular imaging associated with a therapeutic treatment/procedure is to define innovative business models compatible with the needs of all players taking into account that theranostic solutions are promising to optimize resource allocation and ensure that expensive treatments are prescribed to responding patients. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2013. doi: 10.1002/wnan.1225
Conflict of interest: The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article.
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