A unique 19F MRI agent for the tracking of non phagocytic cells in vivo†
There is currently intense interest in new methods for understanding the fate of therapeutically-relevant cells, such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The absence of a confounding background signal and consequent unequivocal assignment makes 19F MRI one of the most attractive modalities for the tracking of injected cells in vivo. We describe here the synthesis of novel partly-fluorinated polymeric nanoparticles with small size and high fluorine content as MRI agents. The polymers, constructed from perfluoropolyether methacrylate (PFPEMA) and oligo(ethylene glycol) methacrylate (OEGMA) have favourable cell uptake profiles and excellent MRI performance. To facilitate cell studies the polymer was further conjugated with a fluorescent dye creating a dual-modal imaging agent. The efficacy of labelling of MSCs was assessed using 19F NMR, flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. The labelling efficiency of 2.6 ± 0.1 × 1012 19F atoms per cell, and viability of >90% demonstrates high uptake and good tolerance by the cells. This loading translates to a minimum 19F MRI detection sensitivity of ∼7.4 × 103 cells per voxel. Importantly, preliminary in vivo data demonstrate that labelled cells can be readily detected within a short acquisition scan period (12 minutes). Hence, these copolymers show outstanding potential for 19F MRI cellular tracking and for quantification of non-phagocytic and therapeutically-relevant cells in vivo.