UNLABELLED: Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is accompanied by a dramatic increase in lung hyaluronic acid (HA), leading to a dose-dependent reduction of pulmonary oxygenation. This pattern is associated with severe infections, such as COVID-19, and other important lung injury etiologies. HA actively participates in molecular pathways involved in the cytokine storm of COVID-19-induced ARDS. The objective of this study was to evaluate an imaging approach of radiolabeled HA for assessment of dysregulated HA deposition in mouse models with skin inflammation and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced ARDS using a novel portable intensified Quantum Imaging Detector (iQID) gamma camera system.
METHODS: HA of 10 kDa molecular weight (HA10) was radiolabeled with 125I and 99mTc respectively to produce [125I]I-HA10 and [99mTc]Tc-HA10, followed by comparative studies on stability, in vivo biodistribution, and uptake at inflammatory skin sites in mice with 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-inflamed ears. [99mTc]Tc-HA10 was used for iQID in vivo dynamic imaging of mice with ARDS induced by intratracheal instillation of LPS.
RESULTS: [99mTc]Tc-HA10 and [125I]I-HA10 had similar biodistribution and localization at inflammatory sites. [99mTc]Tc-HA10 was shown to be feasible in measuring skin injury and monitoring skin wound healing. [99mTc]Tc-HA10 dynamic pulmonary images yielded good visualization of radioactive uptake in the lungs. There was significantly increased lung uptake and slower lung washout in mice with LPS-induced ARDS than in control mice. Postmortem biodistribution measurement of [99mTc]TcHA10 (%ID/g) was 11.0 ± 3.9 vs. 1.3 ± 0.3 in the ARDS mice (n = 6) and controls (n = 6) (P < 0.001), consistent with upregulated HA expression as determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining.
CONCLUSIONS: [99mTc]Tc-HA10 is promising as a biomarker for evaluating HA dysregulation that contributes to pulmonary injury in ARDS. Rapid iQID imaging of [99mTc]Tc-HA10 clearance from injured lungs may provide a functional template for timely assessment and quantitative monitoring of pulmonary pathophysiology and intervention in ARDS.