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Cell-Based 'Tracking Devices' Might Help Monitor Treatments
Date:7/10/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Call it a fantastic voyage. Scientists have successfully found a way to inject tiny iron filings into the human body to potentially monitor medical therapies. The particles work as tracking devices that may help physicians determine if certain treatments are working.

The development of methods to track cells is critical to stem-cell and other therapies that rely on the delivery of particular cells to a target site, such as the heart or other organ, according to the authors of a small new study.

"Eventually we'll be able to prove stem cells are going where they are supposed to be and track cells going into other tissues," said Dr. David Newby, study co-author and professor and chair of cardiology at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland.

The study, published July 10 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, showed that immune cells tagged with nano-sized iron filings and injected into the bloodstream can be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as they move through the human body. The researchers also demonstrated that the process was safe and did not interfere with normal cell function.

A type of normal white blood cell known as macrophages ingest pathogens and cellular debris -- including the filings -- and take them along wherever they go. The iron filings are only about 20 nanometers across. In comparison, the average red blood cell is 8,000 nanometers wide.

Newby said the critical question the researchers wanted to answer was whether the tracking cells, once injected into the body, would migrate where the researchers wanted them to go. "We needed to be able to know if they wander off," he said.

The research showed it is possible to track tagged, injected cells for seven days. Because MRI technology is nonradioactive, the tracking system would not s
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