Various studies have shown that various cell types can be labeled with iron oxide particles and visualized by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, reported protocols for cell labeling show a large variation in terms of labeling dose and incubation time. It is therefore not clear how different labeling protocols may influence labeling efficiency. Systematic assessment of the effects of various labeling protocols on labeling efficiency of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) using two different types of iron oxide nanoparticles, i.e. super paramagnetic iron oxide particles (SPIOs) and microparticles of iron oxide (MPIOs), demonstrated that probe concentration, incubation time and particle characteristics all influence the efficiency of label incorporation, label distribution, label retention and cell behavior. For SPIO the optimal labeling protocol consisted of a dose of 12.5μg iron/2ml/9.5cm2 and an incubation time of 24h, resulting in an average iron load of 12.0pg iron/per cell (uptake efficiency of 9.6%). At 4h many SPIOs are seen sticking to the outside of the cell instead of being taken up by the cell. For MPIO optimal labeling was obtained with a dose of 50μg iron/2ml/9.5cm2. Incubation time was of less importance since most of the particles were already incorporated within 4h with a 100% labeling efficiency, resulting in an intracellular iron load of 626pg/cell. MPIO were taken up more efficiently than SPIO and were also better tolerated. HUVEC could be exposed to and contain higher amounts of iron without causing significant cell death, even though MPIO had a much more pronounced effect on cell appearance. Using optimal labeling conditions as found for HUVEC on other cell lines, we observed that different cell types react differently to identical labeling conditions. Consequently, for each cell type separately an optimal protocol has to be established.

MPIO, MRI, SPIO, cell imaging, iron oxide,
Contrast Media & Molecular Imaging
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van Tiel, S.T, Wielopolski, P.A, Houston, G.C, Krestin, G.P, & Bernsen, M.R. (2010). Variations in labeling protocol influence incorporation, distribution and retention of iron oxide nanoparticles into human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Contrast Media & Molecular Imaging, 5(5), 247–257. doi:10.1002/cmmi.379