Neural stem cells have recently been shown to possess qualities that make them promising candidates for stem cell replacement therapy and spinal cord reconstruction. Researchers at University College London have recently discovered magnetic nanoparticles that could be used to track neural stem cells following their injection. This would allow for the stem cells to be followed throughout the treatment and repair process. Nguyen TK Thanh of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory, UCL Physics and Astronoly and the Royal Institution believes that the hollow biocompatible cobalt-platinum nanoparticles that have been attached to stem cells will be a very efficient way of monitoring the progress of the cells.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) parameters were designed in order to optimize the conditions of monitoring. After establishing these parameters, the nanoparticles were transplanted into organotypic spinal cord slices, and the efficacies of the parameters of MRI were confirmed. ‘The new method demonstrates the feasibility of reliable, noninvasive MRI imaging of nanoparticle-labelled cells,’ says Thanh.
‘Magnetic nanoparticles are emerging as novel contrast and tracking agents in medical imaging,’ says Samir Pal at the California Institute of Technology, US, an expert in biological-nanoparticle interactions. ‘When used as a contrast agent for MRI, the nanoparticles allow researchers and clinicians to enhance the tissue contrast of an area of interest by increasing the relaxation rate of water.’
Thanh is hopeful that these nanoparticles will contribute to stem cell replacement therapy for many central nervous system diseases. She is also working towards developing nanoparticles that can be used to diagnose and treat these diseases.