Efficient magnetic cell labeling with protamine sulfate complexed to ferumoxides for cellular MRI

Ali S. Arbab, Gene T. Yocum, Heather Kalish, Elaine K. Jordan, Stasia A. Anderson, Aarif Y. Khakoo, Elizabeth J. Read, Joseph A. Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

529 Scopus citations


Recently, there have been several reports using various superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles to label mammalian cells for monitoring their temporal and spatial migration in vivo by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficiency and toxicity of labeling cells using 2 commercially available Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved agents, ferumoxides, a suspension of dextran-coated SPIO used as an MRI contrast agent, and protamine sulfate, conventionally used to reverse heparin anticoagulation but also used ex vivo as a cationic transfection agent. After labeling of human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and hematopoietic (CD34 +) stem cells and other mammalian cells with ferumoxides-protamine sulfate complexes (FE-Pro), cellular toxicity, functional capacity, and quantitative cellular iron incorporation were determined. FE-Pro-labeled cells demonstrated no short-or long-term toxicity, changes in differentiation capacity of the stem cells, or changes in phenotype when compared with unlabeled cells. Efficient labeling with FE-Pro was observed with iron content per cell varying between 2.01 ± 0.1 pg for CD34+ cells and 10.94 ± 1.86 pg for MSCs with 100% of cells labeled. Cell labeling using these agents should facilitate the translation of this method to clinical trials for evaluation of trafficking of infused or transplanted cells by MRI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1217-1223
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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