As more advanced stem cell therapies continue to be developed for all kinds of conditions, it remains a challenge to monitor what happens over time to the seeded cells. Inserting a radiological contrast agent inside these cells would work, but the substance has to be particularly contrasty to X-rays.
Working towards that, researchers at Rice University managed to insert bits of a bismuth based compound inside of ultra-short carbon nanotubes and the resulting material showed very high contrast under CT imaging when looking at pig bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The researchers believe the new material will help advance stem cell research and possibly allow for a way to track developing cells right in the patient’s body.
From the study abstract:
The relatively high contrast is achieved with low bismuth loading (2.66% by weight) within the US-tubes and without compromising cell viability. X-ray CT imaging of Bi@US-tubes-labeled MSCs showed a nearly two-fold increase in contrast enhancement when compared to unlabeled MSCs in a 100 kV CT clinical scanner. The CT signal enhancement from the Bi@US-tubes is 500 times greater than polymer-coated Bi2S3 nanoparticles and several-fold that of any clinical iodinated contrast agent (CA) at the same concentration. Our findings suggest that the Bi@US-tubes can be used as a potential new class of X-ray CT agent for stem cell labeling and possibly in vivo tracking.
Study abstract: Bismuth@US-tubes as a potential contrast agent for X-ray imaging applications
Rice University: Bismuth-carrying nanotubes show promise for CT scans