Characterization of Biophysical and Metabolic Properties of Cells Labeled with Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles and Transfection Agent for Cellular MR Imaging

Ali S. Arbab, Lindsey A. Bashaw, Bradley R. Miller, Elaine K. Jordan, Bobbi K. Lewis, Heather Kalish, Joseph A. Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

571 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To evaluate the effect of using the ferumoxides-poly-L-lysine (PLL) complex for magnetic cell labeling on the long-term viability, function, metabolism, and iron utilization of mammalian cells. MATERIALS AND METHODS: PLL was incubated with ferumoxides for 60 minutes, incompletely coating the superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) through electrostatic interactions. Cells were coincubated overnight with the ferumoxides-PLL complex, and iron uptake, cell viability, apoptosis indexes, and reactive oxygen species formation were evaluated. The disappearance or the life span of the detectable iron nanoparticles in cells was also evaluated. The iron concentrations in the media also were assessed at different time points. Data were expressed as the mean ± 1 SD, and one-way analysis of variance and the unpaired Student t test were used to test for significant differences. RESULTS: Intracytoplasmic nanoparticles were stained with Prussian blue when the ferumoxides-PLL complex had magnetically labeled the human mesenchymal stem and HeLa cells. The long-term viability, growth rate, and apoptotic indexes of the labeled cells were unaffected by the endosomal incorporation of SPIO, as compared with these characteristics of the nonlabeled cells. In nondividing human mesenchymal stem cells, endosomal iron nanoparticles could be detected after 7 weeks; however, in rapidly dividing cells, intracellular iron had disappeared by five to eight divisions. A nonsignificant transient increase in reactive oxygen species production was seen in the human mesenchymal stem and HeLa cell lines. Labeled human mesenchymal stem cells did not differentiate to other lineage. A significant increase in iron concentration was observed in both the human mesenchymal stem and HeLa cell media at day 7. CONCLUSION: Magnetic cellular labeling with the ferumoxides-PLL complex had no short- or long-term toxic effects on tumor or stem cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)838-846
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell labeling
  • Contrast media, experimental studies
  • Experimental study
  • Iron
  • Magnetic resonance (MR), contrast media
  • Radiobiology, cell and tissue studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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