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Magn Reson Med. 2014 Mar;71(3):1238-50. doi: 10.1002/mrm.24741.

Clinically viable magnetic poly(lactide-co-glycolide) particles for MRI-based cell tracking.

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Molecular and Cellular MRI Laboratory, Magnetic Resonance Research Center, Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.



To design, fabricate, characterize, and in vivo assay clinically viable magnetic particles for MRI-based cell tracking.


Poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) encapsulated magnetic nano and microparticles were fabricated. Multiple biologically relevant experiments were performed to assess cell viability, cellular performance, and stem cell differentiation. In vivo MRI experiments were performed to separately test cell transplantation and cell migration paradigms, as well as in vivo biodegradation.


Highly magnetic nano (∼100 nm) and microparticles (∼1-2 µm) were fabricated. Magnetic cell labeling in culture occurred rapidly achieving 3-50 pg Fe/cell at 3 h for different particles types, and >100 pg Fe/cell after 10 h, without the requirement of a transfection agent, and with no effect on cell viability. The capability of magnetically labeled mesenchymal or neural stem cells to differentiate down multiple lineages, or for magnetically labeled immune cells to release cytokines following stimulation, was uncompromised. An in vivo biodegradation study revealed that NPs degraded ∼80% over the course of 12 weeks. MRI detected as few as 10 magnetically labeled cells, transplanted into the brains of rats. Also, these particles enabled the in vivo monitoring of endogenous neural progenitor cell migration in rat brains over 2 weeks.


The robust MRI properties and benign safety profile of these particles make them promising candidates for clinical translation for MRI-based cell tracking.

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