Using Nanoparticles to Successfully Deliver Stem Cells

Getting healthy cells to a damaged tissue might be much easier than previously thought if a new cell delivery technology pans out. A recent report in the American Chemical Society’s journal “Langmuir” described a technique for delivering normal cells to a diseased tissue that makes use of a simple magnetic effect.

Rawil Fakhrullin and colleagues explain that the goal of cell therapy is to replace damaged or diseased cells in the human body with normal cells or cultured stem cells. In order to do this, physicians need techniques that can target these cells to diseased organs or tissues. A technique called “superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles” or SPIONS can be attached to therapeutic cells and help deliver them to the diseased site. Magnetic devices can move SPION-labeled cells to diseased areas of the body. Currently, the protocols for attaching SPIONs to therapeutic cells are difficult to use and may potentially damage the therapeutic cells. Thus, researchers set out to develop a better process for attaching SPIONs to human cells.

In their Langmuir paper, Fakhrullin and colleagues describe a new process for making “stabilized” SPIONs in the laboratory and successful attaching them to the surfaces of human cells without damaging them. They found that the SPIONs were not toxic to cells, and they moved in response to a magnet. Fakhrullin commented: “Our current results, as we believe, will inspire scientists to apply the simple and direct technique reported here in tissue engineering and cell-based therapies.” SPIONs might be the delivery method of the future for some stem cell-based regenerative therapies.

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Professor of Biochemistry at Spring Arbor University (SAU) in Spring Arbor, MI. Have been at SAU since 1999. Author of The Stem Cell Epistles. Before that I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA (1997-1999), and Sussex University, Falmer, UK (1994-1997). I studied Cell and Developmental Biology at UC Irvine (PhD 1994), and Microbiology at UC Davis (MA 1986, BS 1984).

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