Visualization of antigen-specific human cytotoxic T lymphocytes labeled with superparamagnetic iron-oxide particles

Eur Radiol. 2008 Jun;18(6):1087-95. doi: 10.1007/s00330-008-0874-4. Epub 2008 Feb 20.


New technologies are needed to characterize the migration and survival of antigen-specific T cells in vivo. In this study, we developed a novel technique for the labeling of human cytotoxic T lymphocytes with superparamagnetic iron-oxide particles and the subsequent depiction with a conventional 1.5-T magnetic resonance scanner. Antigen-specific CD8(+) T lymphocytes were labeled with ferucarbotran by lipofection. The uptake of ferucarbotran was confirmed by immunofluorescence microscopy using a dextran-specific antibody, and the intracellular enrichment of iron was measured by atomic absorption spectrometry. The imaging of T cells was performed by magnetic resonance on day 0, 2, 7 and 14 after the labeling procedure. On day 0 and 2 post labeling, a pronounced shortening of T2*-relaxation times was observed, which diminished after 7 days and was not detectable anymore after 14 days, probably due to the retained mitotic activity of the labeled T cells. Of importance, the antigen-specific cytolytic activity of the T cells was preserved following ferucarbotran labeling. Efficient ferucarbotran labeling of functionally active T lymphocytes and their detection by magnetic resonance imaging allows the in vivo monitoring of T cells and, subsequently, will impact the further development of T cell-based therapies.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Contrast Media / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dextrans
  • Ferrosoferric Oxide
  • Humans
  • Iron / pharmacokinetics*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Oxides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Staining and Labeling
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic*


  • Contrast Media
  • Dextrans
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles
  • Oxides
  • Iron
  • ferumoxides
  • Ferrosoferric Oxide