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Heart Researchers Track Blood Cells With MRI

July 11, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Cardiac Imaging
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Once you inject disease-fighting substances into the bloodstream, do they go where they are supposed to? A new MRI technique should allow researchers to find out.

The technique involves tagging individual blood cells with tiny magnetic particles. A study published online Tuesday in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging demonstrates that the idea works. Jennifer Richards, MD, lead author, said:

This could change how we assess new treatments affecting inflammation and the outcome of a heart attack or heart failure.

Dr. Richards is a vascular surgeon at the University of Edinburgh/British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science in Scotland. She was quoted in an American Heart Association news release.

The MRI technique is intended for use in stem cell therapy for damaged heart tissue. Said David Newby, MD, PhD, senior author of the study:

We’ve safely and successfully tracked iron-labeled immune cells in healthy people. Having demonstrated this proof of principle, the next step will be to show this technique also works in heart patients.

Dr. Newby, a professor of cardiology at the University of Edinburgh, was quoted by Medical News Today. He continued, “This is an important finding because the ability to tell what proportion of cells is reaching damaged heart tissue would really help scientists trying to develop stem cell therapies to mend broken hearts.”

Scientists prefer MRI tracing over other methods because it doesn’t expose patients to radiation and can be effective for more than a few hours. The Edinburgh researchers found that cells containing magnetic particles could be monitored for at least a week.

They started by determining in test tubes that magnetically labeled blood immune cells move and thrive normally. They then did four small-scale tests in humans. The tests found no negative effects from magnetically labeled cells injected into either muscle or the bloodstream. The cells were traceable for at least seven days, and they moved to an area of inflammation, just as they were intended to.

More trials are planned using actual stem cells, but so far, so good.

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Related seminar: Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Imaging

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