Nanoparticles of the toxic rare earth metal gandolinium can potentially infiltrate kidney cells, causing serious health complications, a team of researchers at the University of New Mexico found in a new study.
The peer-reviewed study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports earlier this month, found that in some cases, gadolinium can cause nephrogenic systemic fibrosis - a painful, often fatal, disease that affects the skin and organs - as well as potentially lethal gadolinium encephalopathy or gadolinium exposure (SAGE)/gadolinium deposition disease.
Gandolinium can be found in a contrast agent often prescribed to patients before MRI scans. The study, however, also revealed that gadolinium atoms can reach out of contrast agents into kidneys and other tissues. A contrast agent is a substance used to increase the contrast of structures or fluids within the body.
Brent Wagner, an associate professor in the UNM Department of Internal Medicine, states that about half of MRI scans use contrast agents containing gadolinium.
He also states that some patients have gotten the nephrogenic systemic fibrosis disease after a single dose, while others only got it after eight years of exposure.
The study presented an additional concern that gadolinium can make its way through the environment, as it was discovered that the MRI contrast agent is expelled through urine. It is also able to release white blood cells called fibrocytes.