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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I014667/1
Title: Magnetic Targeting of Stem Cells
Principal Investigator: Lythgoe, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Pankhurst, Professor QA
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Medicine
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 31 August 2011 Ends: 30 August 2013 Value (£): 254,211
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Stem cell therapy is one of the most exciting and promising areas for disease treatment and reparative medicine. Stem cells are produced by the body as a 'universal' type of cell that is capable of replacing many tissues when they are damaged or worn out. One of the major problems with using stem cells therapeutically are that stem cells do not automatically home to the area of damage. From previous studies we know that after injury only limited numbers of injected stem cells will go to the site of damage. In this study we will develop new magnetic technique that will allow us to guide stem cells to the site of injury, which we hope will improve the therapeutic benefit of the stem cells. To do this we will tag stem cells with magnetic nanoparticles and steer them to sites of tissue damage in the body, using external magnetic fields. Superparamagnetic nanoparticles offer attractive possibilities in medicine. Firstly, they have controllable sizes ranging from a few nanometres up to tens of nanometres, which places them at dimensions that are smaller than or comparable to those of a cell (10-100 um), a virus (20-450 nm), a protein (5-50 nm) or a gene (2 nm wide and 10-100 nm long). This means that they can be incorporated into a cell, thereby providing a controllable means of 'tagging'. Secondly, the nanoparticles are magnetic, which means that they can be mechanically manipulated by an external magnetic field gradient. In our study, we want to use this property to enable site-specific localisation of magnetically tagged stem cells by the use of an externally applied magnetic field. Thirdly, superparamagnetic iron oxide particles 'show up' on magnetic resonances images, thus offering an approach to tracking these particles. For this project, we will develop a novel technology for guiding stem cells. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems have traditionally been used for imaging. Here we will modify their use to guide as well as track stem cells. In this study we aim to magnetically tag stem cells with superparamagnetic nanoparticles. Using cell cultures we will assess the effects of magnetic fields on cell viability and cell differentiation. Subsequently, we will investigate the uptake of labelled cells in animal models of vascular damage, and assess whether the stem cells have integrated into the damaged tissue. We will monitor whether the stem cells have attached to the areas of damage using MRI, as the magnetic iron-oxide particles appear as dark areas on the image. We will also use an iron detector know as a SQUID to measure exactly how many iron particles have attached to the cells. Varying both nanoparticles and magnetic field strength in vivo will enable assessment of the effects of flow rates and field strength on localisation of the labelled cells. We believe that if this novel technology is successful we will be able to guide delivery of stem cells to other regions of the body, such as the brain or liver, for the restoration of function in damaged or diseased tissue, which may open a new area of investigation for site-specific delivery of stem cells or genetically altered cells.
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