Iron oxide particles for molecular magnetic resonance imaging cause transient oxidative stress in rat macrophages

Free Radic Biol Med. 2004 Apr 15;36(8):976-84. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2004.01.016.


Iron oxide particles are a promising marker in molecular magnetic resonance imaging. They are used to label distinct cell populations either in vitro or in vivo. We investigated for the first time whether small citrate-coated very small superparamagnetic iron oxide particles (VSOPs) can lead to an increase in cellular oxidative stress. We incubated rat macrophages (RAW) in vitro with iron oxide particles. We observed a massive uptake of VSOPs measured both with atomic absorption spectroscopy and with NMR, which could be visualized by confocal laser scanning microscopy. After incubation, cells were lysed and the levels of malonyldialdehyde (MDA) and protein carbonyls were determined. We found a significant increase in both MDA and protein carbonyl levels after incubation with the particles. Surprisingly, 24 h after incubation, a significant indication of oxidative stress could no longer be observed. The increase in oxidative stress seems to be transient and closely linked to the incubation procedure. The iron chelator desferal and the intracellular spin trap PBN caused a significant reduction in oxidative stress to almost control levels. This indicates that the augmentation of oxidative stress is closely linked to the free iron during incubation. Proliferation assays showed that incorporation of VSOPs did not lead to long-term cytotoxic effects even though the iron oxide particles remained in the cell. Magnetic labeling of cells with VSOPs seems to cause transient oxidative conditions not affecting cellular viability and seems to be a usable approach for molecular magnetic resonance imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Cell Division
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Deferoxamine / pharmacology
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry*
  • Ferric Compounds / metabolism
  • Free Radicals
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Malondialdehyde / pharmacology
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Protons
  • Rats
  • Time Factors


  • Antioxidants
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Free Radicals
  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Protons
  • ferric oxide
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Carbon
  • Iron
  • Deferoxamine