(HealthDay News) – Blood cells labeled with superparamagnetic particles of iron oxide (SPIO) are safe and can be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which may allow better monitoring of cell-based therapies.

Jennifer M.J. Richards, MB, ChB, from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, and colleagues labeled peripheral blood mononuclear cells with SPIO and tested their ability to be detected by MRI after intramuscular or intravenous injection into humans.

The researchers found that the SPIO-labeled cells could be detected for at least seven days following intramuscular injection. Injecting as many as one billion labeled cells was safe, with cells accumulating in the reticulo-endothelial system and detectable in clinical MRI. When injected intravenously into a healthy volunteer, the SPIO-labeled cells were able to migrate to a site of inflammation, which could be detected both by MRI and through skin biopsies confirming the presence of iron.

“SPIO-labeling for magnetic resonance cell tracking is a safe and feasible technique that has major potential for a range of cardiovascular applications, including monitoring of cell therapies and tracking of inflammatory cells,” Richards and colleagues conclude.

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