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J Immunol Methods. 2006 Jul 31;314(1-2):123-33. Epub 2006 Jul 12.

A rapid method for labelling CD4+ T cells with ultrasmall paramagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles for magnetic resonance imaging that preserves proliferative, regulatory and migratory behaviour in vitro.

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Department of Immunology, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Campus, Du Cane Road, W12 ONN, UK.


A number of techniques have been developed to track the migration of T cells in vivo, but they all suffer significant shortcomings, including the examination of selected organs rather than the organism as a whole--thus precluding longitudinal studies--or limitations imposed by poor spatial resolution and the application of ionizing radiation. By conjugating the HIV tat peptide to ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide (USPIO) nanoparticles in a reaction yielding a mean valence of 45, a magnetic resonance (MR) contrast agent was synthesised that allowed T cells to be efficiently labelled within just 5 min. The USPIO nanoparticles were incorporated into both the cytoplasm and nucleus of labelled cells, which retained normal in vitro proliferative responses to a polyclonal stimulus; suppressive responses mediated by labelled CD4(+) CD25(+) regulatory T cells; chemotactic responses to the chemokine CXCL-12; and transmigration of an activated endothelial monolayer. We believe that this rapid, efficient and essentially non-toxic approach to labelling both murine and human T cells for MRI holds considerable promise, paving the way for the wider immunological application of this exciting technology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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