Multiwall carbon nanotubes as MRI contrast agents for tracking stem cells

Nanotechnology. 2011 Mar 4;22(9):095706. doi: 10.1088/0957-4484/22/9/095706. Epub 2011 Jan 27.


In this study we investigate the potential of multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) with low metal impurities (2.57% iron) as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents. Taking into account probable aggregation at high MWCNTs concentration analysis shows that the r(2) relaxivity of MWCNTs in 1% agarose gels at 19 °C is 564 ± 41 s(-1) mM(-1); this is attributed to both the presence of iron oxide impurities and also to the carbon MWCNT structure itself. Stem cells were labelled with MWCNTs to demonstrate the effectiveness of MWCNTs as MRI contrast agents for cellular MRI. The MWCNTs did not impair cell viability or proliferation. These results suggest that the MRI contrast agent properties of the MWCNTs could be used in vivo for stem cell tracking/imaging and during MWCNT-mediated targeted electro-chemotherapy of tumours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Tracking / methods*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Contrast Media / chemical synthesis
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / analysis*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WF


  • Contrast Media
  • Nanotubes, Carbon