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Getting ASCs to Stick Around with Magnets!

Review of “Externally Applied Static Magnetic Field Enhances Cardiac Retention and Functional Benefit of Magnetically Iron-Labeled Adipose-Derived Stem Cells in Infarcted Hearts” from Stem Cells Translational Medicine by Stuart P. Atkinson

Adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) have demonstrated some success in the treatment of myocardial infarction (MI), but low cell retention in the heart inhibits their therapeutic worth [1]. So how do we get ASCs to “stick around”? The answer comes from researchers from the laboratories of Jian Wang (Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China) and Ganghong Tian (National Research Council of Canada) who believe they have found the solution: magnets!

The teams aimed to label ASCs with superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles [2, 3] and keep them in place with an externally applied static magnetic field (SMF) via the subcutaneous insertion of a magnet over the heart. In a new Stem Cells Translational Medicine study, they now report on the safety and effectiveness of getting ASCs to stick around in the infarcted heart [4]!

Before ASC implantation, the study first set out to assess any possible unwanted effects to ASC characteristics caused by a magnetic field. Encouragingly, Wang et al saw no differences in cell viability and proliferation, angiogenic cytokine expression, or DNA integrity.

Subsequent intramyocardial injection of SPIO-labelled ASCs into the hearts of magnet-bearing rats mediated enhanced myocardial retention (See Figure) and this allowed improved ASC-induced angiogenesis and the inhibition of cardiomyocyte apoptosis. These improvements also led to enhanced functional recovery in the infarcted heart, as evidenced by substantially improved heart contractile function, suggesting that improved cell retention by an externally applied SMF may represent a rather handy means of enhancing ASC-therapy for MI.

This pilot study establishes safety and efficacy and the authors hope that further preclinical optimization of their approach can improve therapeutic outcomes for patients undergoing stem cell therapy. Such extra studies will include the optimization of magnetic intensity and duration for effective targeting, the further exploration of cell retention behavior, and the application of this approach in a large-animal model. 

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  1. Hou D, Youssef EA, Brinton TJ, et al. Radiolabeled cell distribution after intramyocardial, intracoronary, and interstitial retrograde coronary venous delivery: implications for current clinical trials. Circulation 2005;112:I150-156.
  2. Wang L, Deng J, Wang J, et al. Superparamagnetic iron oxide does not affect the viability and function of adipose-derived stem cells, and superparamagnetic iron oxide-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging identifies viable cells. Magn Reson Imaging 2009;27:108-119.
  3. Blaber SP, Hill CJ, Webster RA, et al. Effect of labeling with iron oxide particles or nanodiamonds on the functionality of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells. PLoS One 2013;8:e52997.
  4. Wang J, Xiang B, Deng J, et al. Externally Applied Static Magnetic Field Enhances Cardiac Retention and Functional Benefit of Magnetically Iron-Labeled Adipose-Derived Stem Cells in Infarcted Hearts. Stem Cells Transl Med 2016;5:1380-1393.