Background & Aims: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the second most common chronic inflammatory disorder worldwide; however, a noninvasive means of accurately assessing the severity and extent of intestinal inflammation is currently not available. The aim of the present study was to develop a noninvasive imaging modality to detect and evaluate ileitis in SAMP1/YitFc (SAMP) mice. Methods: An image-enhancing ultrasound (US) contrast agent, consisting of encapsulated gaseous microbubbles (MB), was developed specifically to bind mucosal addressin cellular adhesion molecule-1 (MAdCAM-1), a mucosal-restricted addressin up-regulated during gut inflammation. MAdCAM-1-targeted MB (MBM) were tested for binding specificity on MAdCAM-1 protein and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-stimulated SVEC4-10 endothelial cells using an in vitro flow chamber assay and for their ability to detect and quantify ileitis by intravital microscopy and transabdominal US. Results: Under in vitro flow conditions, a 100-fold increase in MBM binding was observed on MAdCAM-1 protein compared with nonspecific MB (P < .001). TNF-stimulated endothelial cells bound significantly more MBM vs nonspecific MB (P < .001), which was abrogated after preincubation with anti-MAdCAM-1 antibodies (P < .001). In vivo, MBM specifically accumulated in focal areas of ileal inflammation and produced stronger acoustic echoes, measured by average video intensity, in SAMP vs uninflamed AKR mice (P < .001) or SAMP given nonspecific MB (P < .001). MBM-specific video intensity showed a strong positive correlation with total ileal inflammatory scores (R2 = 0.92). Conclusions: We have developed a novel intravascular US contrast agent targeting MAdCAM-1 that specifically detects and quantifies intestinal inflammation in experimental ileitis, providing the potential for a reliable, noninvasive means to diagnose and monitor disease in patients with IBD.
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