Nucleic acid delivery to magnetically-labeled cells in a 2D array and at the luminal surface of cell culture tube and their detection by MRI

Olga Mykhaylyk, Andreas Steingötter, Hector Perea, Joachim Aigner, René Botnar, Christian Plank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The magnetic labeling of living cells has become of major interest in the areas of cell therapy and tissue engineering. Magnetically labeled cells have been reported to allow increased and controlled seeding, tracking, and targeting of cells. In this work, we comprehensively characterize magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) possessing a magnetite core of about 11 nm, and which are coated with the fluorinated surfactant F(CF2)nCH2CH 2SCH2CH2C(O)OLi and 1,9-nonandithiol (NDT) for the nonspecific labeling of human pulmonary epithelial (H441) cells. We achieved a non-specific cell loading of 38 pg Fe/cell. In this work we combine magnetic cell labeling with subsequent genetic modification of the cells with non-viral transfection complexes associated with PEI-Mag2 magnetic nanoparticles upon gradient magnetic field application called magnetofection. The magnetic responsiveness and magnetic moment of the MNP-labeled cells and the magnetic transfection complexes were evaluated by measuring changes in the turbidity of prepared cells suspensions and complexes in a defined magnetic gradient field. The magnetic responsiveness of cells that were loaded with NDT-Mag1 MNPs (20-38 pg Fe/cell) was sufficient to engraft these labeled cells magnetically onto the luminal surface of a culture tube. This was achieved using a solenoid electromagnet that produced a radial magnetic field of 20-30 mT at the seeding area and an axial gradient field of approx. 4 T/m. The MNP-labeled cells were magnetofected in 2D arrays (well plates) and at the luminal surface of cell culture tube. The optimized magnetic pre-labeling of cells did not interfere with, or even increased, the efficiency of magnetofection in both culture systems without causing cell toxicity. Cell loading of 38 pg Fe/cell of NDT-Mag1 MNPs resulted in high transverse relaxivities r2*. thus allowing the MRI detection of cell concentrations that were equivalent to (or higher than) 1.2 μg Fe/ml. Multi-echo gradient echo imaging and R 2* mapping detected as few as 1533 MNP-labeled H441 cells localized within a 50 μl fibrin clot and MNP-labeled cell monolayers that were engrafted on the luminal surface of a cell culture tube. Further loading of cells with MNPs did not increase either the magnetic responsiveness of the cells or the sensitivity of MR imaging. In summary, the NDT-Mag1 magnetic nanoparticles provided a high cell-loading efficiency, resulting in strong cell magnetic moments and a high sensitivity to MRI detection. The transfection ability of the labeled cells was also maintained, thereby increasing the magnetofection efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-706
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biomedical Nanotechnology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Magnetic cell labeling
  • Magnetic cell seeding
  • Magnetic nanoparticles
  • Magnetofection
  • Nucleic acid delivery
  • R * mapping
  • T* weighted MRI
  • Transverse relaxivity


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