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Giving transplanted cells a nanotech checkup
Date:2/5/2013

, sensor filled with L-arginine, a nutritional supplement that responds chemically to small changes in acidity (pH) caused by the death of nearby cells. Changes in the acidity would in turn set off changes in sensor molecules embedded in the thin layer of fat that makes up the outside of the nanoparticle, giving off a signal that could be detected by MRI.

To test how these nanosensors would work in a living body, the team loaded them into hydrogel spheres along with liver cells a potential therapy for patients with liver failure and another sensor that gives off bioluminescent light only while the cells are alive. The spheres were injected just under the skin of mice. As confirmed by the light signal, the MRI accurately detected where the cells were in the body and what proportion were still alive. (Such light indicators cannot be used to track cells in humans because our bodies are too large for visible signals to get through, but these indicators allowed the team to check whether the MRI nanosensors were working properly in the mice.)

"It was exciting to see that this works so well in a living body," Chan says. The team hopes that because the components of the system hydrogel membrane, fat molecules, and L-arginine are safe for humans, adapting their discovery for clinical use will prove relatively straightforward. "This should take a lot of the guesswork out of cell transplantation by letting doctors see whether the cells survive, and if not, when they die," Chan says. "That way they may be able to figure out what's killing the cells, and how to prevent it."

Potential applications of the sensors are not limited to cells inside hydrogel capsules, Bulte notes. "These nanoparticles would work outside capsules, and they could be paired with many different kinds of cells. For example, they may be used to see whether tumor cells are dying in response to chemotherapy," he says.


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Contact: Shawna Williams
shawna@jhmi.edu
410-955-8236
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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