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These intracellular calcium sensors are small-molecule complexes comprised of manganese and gadolinium, with planar lipophilic ligands conjugated to the cell-permeable calcium chelator BAPTA. These molecules are able to traverse cellular membranes and enter the cytosol, where they are cleaved and activated by endogenous esterases. Inside the cells, these activated calcium sensors induce changes in T1-weighted MRI contrast upon calcium binding, enabling a noninvasive strategy to visualize calcium signaling within intact tissues for clinical diagnostics.

This technology has widespread applications in the clinic for strategies that require calcium signaling detection, including neuroimaging to identify neuropathies and to plan surgeries, testing of cardiac and skeletal muscle function, and monitoring lymphatic function in inflammation and cancer.