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Cellular therapy is emerging as a promising alternative to conventional immunosuppression in the fields of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation, autoimmune disease, and solid organ transplantation. Determining the persistence of cell-based therapies in vivo is crucial to understanding their regulatory function and requires the combination of an extremely sensitive detection technique and a stable, long-lifetime cell labeling agent. This paper reports the first application of laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) to perform single cell detection of T cell populations relevant to cellular immunotherapy. Purified human CD4(+) T cells were labeled with commercially available Gd-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents, Omniscan and Dotarem, which enabled passive loading of up to 10(8) Gd atoms per cell. In mixed preparations of labeled and unlabeled cells, LA-ICP-MS was capable of enumerating labeled cells at close to the predicted ratio. More importantly, LA-ICP-MS single cell analysis demonstrated that the cells retained a sufficient label to remain detectable for up to 10 days post-labeling both in vitro and in vivo in an immunodeficient mouse model.

Original publication




Journal article


Anal Chem

Publication Date





10627 - 10634


Animals, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cell Tracking, Contrast Media, Gadolinium, Humans, Laser Therapy, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Mass Spectrometry, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Tissue Distribution