|Glioma image by Mikhail Kalinin, Wikimedia Commons|
Karen Aboody faced the same problem as many scientists developing stem cell-based therapies for various diseases: How to know where the cells go after she transplants them into a patient.
Aboody, who is an associate professor at City of Hope in Los Angeles, has a CIRM disease team award to use transplanted neural stem cells (NSCs) as a way of delivering chemotherapy directly to brain tumors (you can read about that award here). When she starts clinical trials, she’ll need to be able to track whether the cells are migrating to the tumor and how long they stick around. She and many other scientists have been developing ways of tracking cells within the body, but so far none had been approved for clinical trials.
In a paper in the September 6 Stem Cells Translational Medicine, Aboody and colleagues reported pre-loading the cells with what a press release from the journal cells “ultra-small, super paramagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles that can then be detected via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)”.
The release quotes Aboody:
The results showed great promise in the lab. “Additionally,” Dr. Aboody said, “when we tested it on mice with brain tumors we were able to track the NSC distribution using an MRI at multiple time-points following intracerebral or intravenous injection. The mice demonstrated no significant clinical or behavioral changes, no neuronal or systemic toxicities and no abnormal accumulation of iron in the liver or spleen.”
Basically, they loaded the cell up with an iron-based mixture and injected the cells into animals. They were then able to use MRI to see the cells within the animals. This technique will help Aboody and other scientists tell whether the cells are going where expected in human clinical trials.
Aboody is just one of several scientists we fund working on therapies for brain tumors. You can read about the other awards on our Brain Tumor Fact sheet.