Pivotal role of the protein corona in the cell uptake of fluorinated nanoparticles with increased sensitivity for 19F-MR imaging†
In vivo cell tracking by non-invasive imaging technologies is needed to accelerate the clinical translation of innovative cell-based therapies. In this regard, 19F-MRI has recently gained increased attention for unbiased localization of labeled cells over time. To push forward the use of 19F-MRI for cell tracking, the development of highly performant 19F-probes is required. PLGA-based NPs containing PERFECTA, a multibranched superfluorinated molecule with an optimal MRI profile thanks to its 36 magnetically equivalent fluorine atoms, are promising 19F-MRI probes. In this work we demonstrate the importance of the surface functionalization of these NPs in relation to their interaction with the biological environment, stressing the pivotal role of the formation of the protein corona (PC) in their cellular labelling efficacy. In particular, our studies showed that the formation of PC NPs strongly promotes the cellular internalization of these NPs in microglia cells. We advocate that the formation of PC NPs in the culture medium can be a key element to be used for the optimization of cell labelling with a considerable increase of the detection sensitivity by 19F-MRI.