In vivo cell tracking of therapeutic, tumor, and endothelial cells is an emerging field and a promising technique for imaging cardiovascular disease and cancer development. Site-specific labeling of endothelial cells with the MRI contrast agent superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) in the absence of toxic agents is challenging. Therefore, the aim of this in vitro study was to find optimal parameters for efficient and safe SPIO-labeling of endothelial cells using ultrasound-activated CD31-targeted microbubbles for future MRI tracking. Ultrasound at a frequency of 1 MHz (10,000 cycles, repetition rate of 20 Hz) was used for varying applied peak negative pressures (10–160 kPa, i.e. low mechanical index (MI) of 0.01–0.16), treatment durations (0–30 s), time of SPIO addition (-5 min– 15 min with respect to the start of the ultrasound), and incubation time after SPIO addition (5 min– 3 h). Iron specific Prussian Blue staining in combination with calcein-AM based cell viability assays were applied to define the most efficient and safe conditions for SPIO-labeling. Optimal SPIO labeling was observed when the ultrasound parameters were 40 kPa peak negative pressure (MI 0.04), applied for 30 s just before SPIO addition (0 min). Compared to the control, this resulted in an approximate 12 times increase of SPIO uptake in endothelial cells in vitro with 85% cell viability. Therefore, ultrasound-activated targeted ultrasound contrast agents show great potential for effective and safe labeling of endothelial cells with SPIO.,
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Skachkov, I. (Ilya), Luan, Y. (Ying), van Tiel, S.T, van der Steen, A.F.W, de Jong, N, Bernsen, M.R, & Kooiman, K. (2018). SPIO labeling of endothelial cells using ultrasound and targeted microbubbles at diagnostic pressures. PLoS ONE, 13(9). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0204354