Magnetic nanoparticle probes are emerging as a class of novel contrast and tracking agents for medical imaging. When used as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles allow researchers and clinicians to enhance the tissue contrast of an area of interest by increasing the relaxation rate of water. With variations in the size, coating thickness, surface chemistry, and targeting ligands, these nanoparticle probes can be tailored to target specific organs, cells, or even molecular markers of different diseases in vivo. Here, we review the various methods for synthesis and functionalization of these nanoparticle probes, and offer examples of their potential clinical usage as well as new design approaches, aiming to stimulate a broader interest in the development and medical application of magnetic nanoparticles.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(05)00893-X