Research: tracking cells with MRI

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Luchetti et al.Monoclonal antibodies conjugated with superparamagnetic iron oxide particles allow magnetic resonance imaging detection of lymphocytes in the mouse brain. Mol Imaging. 2012 Apr 1;11(2):114-25.

These researchers labelled cells with antibodies attached to superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) particles as cellular specific magnetic resonance contrast agents to image lymphocyte or white blood cell populations within the central nervous system (CNS).

The goal of this research is to find a reliable tool for noninvasively detecting and tracking specific cellular populations in humans.

The superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) particles is the contrast agent, by means of its T2* MRI relaxation properties; the antibody is the targeting vector, responsible for homing the particle to target a surface antigen on a cell.

You must remember that the immune system makes antibodies to bind selectively to a specific target; we can then use these antibodies for doing research like this.

To investigate the efficiency of particle vectorialization by these antibodies, they compared two types of antibody-vectorialized CD3-specific particles in vivo (CD3 is a marker for T-cells). They also successfully employed vectorialized SPIO particles to image B220+ cells in a mouse model of B-cell lymphoma (cancer of lymphoid cells). Likewise, they were able to identify CD3+ infiltrates in a mouse model of MS. The specificity of the technique was confirmed by histology and electron microscopy. 


These findings suggest that indirect binding of antibodies to a iron oxide particle allows for localisation of cells within brain tissue and may be useful in the future to study MS pathology.

USPIOs quantification in brain mice

“You asked about the development of imaging agents. Here antibodies have been linked to iron particles that can be detected by MRI. This can detect white blood cells. Which in principle this looks good, there may be practical limitations for human application. First the MRI does not have the resolution to be able to detect single cells and so all this will see are cell clumps and second because it is protein/antibody based there is a chance that the person could make anti-globulin responses and so on second application it may get an allergic reaction.”

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

1 comment

  • Wow, this is an early step in what I hope will be many. It's nice to see I wasn't completely off base in my wish for progress in this area. .

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