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13 Jul 2016 4 Comments

Stem cells injected with Tattoo Ink can be monitored, non-invasively!

Dr. Margaret Cheng, a biomedical Engineering Professor from the University of Toronto, claims a revolutionizing discovery of tracing the course of injected stem cells with unprecedented accuracy, using simple tattoo tracer ink.

Gone are the days when the physicians were clueless about the course of the stem cells that are injected. This new breakthrough can enable, the doctors to be very precise about the effectiveness of the stem cell therapy, at a cellular level.

Dr.Margaret Cheng, the biomedical engineer specializing in medical imaging explains, body art is more than skin deep with this new chemical mixture. The contrast agent can revolutionize the complete stem cell research, by offering scientists the privilege to maximize the efficacy of their therapies.

The duo Dr.Cheng and her colleague Xiao-an Zhang, an assistant professor of Chemistry at U of T Scarborough , collectively developed this unique chemical compound known as a contrast agent. This chemical tracer was made of manganese, an element that occurs naturally in the human body and commonly called MnAMP.

The team said it is impossible to overcome the hurdles during stem cell therapy without seeing the cells that were inside the body. So, thus they came up with this novel initiative of injecting this dye into the stem cells before infusing them for therapy use, within the body. Thus the team bathed the stem cells in the green solution making it traceable, within the body and visible under MRI.

They also published the findings last month in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, as a break-through in science of stem cells with “tattoo ink”

The contrast agent, MnAMP enters as ink into the stem cell by penetrating into its membrane and once inside it kick-starts, a series of chemical reactions that seals it from oozing or seeping out through the same way it entered. The team says previous versions of contrast agents so called “inks”, easily escaped out of the cells.

In the latter part of their research the engineers figured out the manner to contain the ink within the stem cell walls, this led to the ability to trace the cells, once they were within the body.

Though basic contrast agents used for humans were already present over a period of time, none were capable of being traced once within the body.

Now with the discovery of this current contrast agent, the deepest and darkest corners inside the person were clearer under CT scans, MRI and X-rays.

Commonly, patients were asked to swallow Barium Sulphate solution which was thick and chalky prior to most gastrointestinal scans. The chalky and greasy substance lined the oesophagus and coated it making the GI tract stand out for any imaging.

In the case of stem cells the scientists had to rely on just surgical procedures to get a physical glimpse of the cells injected into the animal’s body. Now with the invention of this contrast agent, the physicians will be able to trace the results in real time pertaining to the stem cells injected, without any invasive surgical technique.

Dr. Cheng said, we were blind after the cells were introduced into the body and resorting the subject to go under the knife was the only way out. But, this advancement in science has enabled us to view, stem cells in a non-invasive manner, using MRI.

For now, this technique is still in its nascent phase of development and should undergo many more animal testing. Embryonic stem cells of Mouse were already tested with this contrast and without any problem, it did transform into a functional heart.

Thereby, the technique also worked well on rats and pigs too, said Dr.Cheng. These studies can eventually be a better mimic for human size models in the forthcoming evaluations, remarked the researchers.

In these clinical trials pursued on animal samples, the researchers cut off the blood flow to mimic and forecast damages that can occur in the human heart. Myocardial cells “pre-tagged” in Dr.Cheng’s contrast agent were also injected into the damaged tissue.

With the use of MRI, the tattooed stem cells in action were monitored, as they scaled into the body. This clear image obtained enabled the scientist to non-invasively determine whether new cells were contributing to the restoration of heart’s normal rhythm.

 10 more years of clinical trials are expected to succeed this study before this technology is potent to be introduced into a human subject. By then the chemical compound would have also undergone a rigorous toxicology test and proven safe to be used on human subjects.

Closing her findings Dr. Cheng concluded by saying, “If my children benefit immensely from this technology, I will be very happy”

 If you want to know more about stem cell banking and its multitude of benefits, click the link below:

Photo Courtesy: Toronto Star



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