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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Feng Lei Zhou
  • Hui Hui Wu
  • Ian Wimpenny
  • Xun Zhang


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.

Bibliographical metadata

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