Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have learned how to track living cells in living tissue in real time, non-invasively,media reported. They developed a technique that uses magnetic nuclei-shell iron nanowires as a non-toxic contrast agent that can be implanted into living cells. They can determine the location of these cells in living organisms during AN MRI scans.
The researchers believe the technology could be applied to areas ranging from research and treatment of cancer to tracking live cell medical treatments such as stem cell therapy. The researchers also found that nuclear-shell iron nanowires selectively kill cancer cells, while sending an anti-cancer drug into the target cell and releasing a heat in the cell membrane that pierces the cell.
In collaboration with other researchers, the team has shown that the same type of iron core, iron oxide shell nanowires can be used for non-invasive medical imaging. Nanowires may be used as diagnostic integration reagents to identify, track and target cells.
Nanowires can be used as an MRI contrast agent even at very low concentrations. The magnetic response can be adjusted by changing the thickness of the nanowire shell layer. The biocompatibility of the wires makes it possible to track living cells for long periods of time.
The researchers say nanowires interact with cells but do not affect their ability to survive, function or multiply. Labeled cells can be tracked in cell culture or injected into living animals. The strong magnetism of the nanowires made it possible to track the exact location of 10 marker cells in the brains of mice. In addition, nanowires can be directed to a specific location using a magnetic system to carry the drug, and can also be heated by laser.