Although well known for delivering various pharmaceutical agents, liposomes can be prepared to entrap gas rather than aqueous media and have the potential to be used as pressure probes in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using these gas-filled liposomes (GFL) as tracers, MRI imaging of pressure regions of a fluid flowing through a porous medium could be established. This knowledge can be exploited to enhance recovery of oil from the porous rock regions within oil fields. In the preliminary studies, we have optimized the lipid composition of GFL prepared using a simple homogenization technique and investigated key physico-chemical characteristics (size and the physical stability) and their efficacy as pressure probes. In contrast to the liposomes possessing an aqueous core which are prepared at temperatures above their phase transition temperature (T(c)), homogenization of the phospholipids such as 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) or 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocoline (DSPC) in aqueous medium below their T(c) was found to be crucial in formation of stable GFL. DSPC based preparations yielded a GFL volume of more than five times compared to their DPPC counter part. Although the initial vesicle sizes of both DSPC and DPPC based GFL were about 10 microm, after 7 days storage at 25 degrees C, the vesicle sizes of both formulations significantly (p < 0.05) increased to 28.3 +/- 0.3 mum and 12.3 +/- 1.0 microm, respectively. When the DPPC preparation was supplemented with cholesterol at a 1:0.5 or 1:1 molar ratio, significantly (p < 0.05) larger vesicles were formed (12-13 microm), however, compared to DPPC only vesicles, both cholesterol supplemented formulations displayed enhanced stability on storage indicating a stabilizing effect of cholesterol on these gas-filled vesicles. In order to induce surface charge on the GFL, DPPC and cholesterol (1: 0.5 molar ratio) liposomes were supplemented with a cationic surfactant, stearylamine, at a molar ratio of 0.25 or 0.125. Interestingly, the zeta potential values remained around neutrality at both stearylamine ratios suggesting the cationic surfactant was not incorporated within the bilayers of the GFL. Microscopic analysis of GFL confirmed the presence of spherical structures with a size distribution between 1-8 microm. This study has identified that DSPC based GFL in aqueous medium dispersed in 2% w/v methyl cellulose although yielded higher vesicle sizes over time were most stable under high pressures exerted in MRI.
- magnetic resonance imaging