Excerpt: STARSTEM is addressing major technology gaps to enable imaging of stem cells at clinically relevant depths. Our nanostar-enhanced multi-modal imaging approach will enable us to detect stem cell engraftment and tissue repair, and thus their activity and efficacy as a therapy.
We do this by using nanoparticles with novel optical properties. Gold nanostars will be attached to bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and extracellular vesicles (EVs) prior to their administration in a joint affected with osteoarthritis. We then harness the best properties of light and sound with the optoacoustic imaging system to exploit the unique advantages of our nanostars for deep-tissue imaging.
These labelled nanostars greatly enhance molecular sensing and diagnostics by increasing the signal contrast during the visualisation process. STARSTEM began in January 2018 and will run for four years. Since project kick-off, we have made significant progress on cell production; isolation of EVs from MSCs; nanostar design and production; labelling of cell products; and imaging technology development. We have also addressed necessary regulatory issues and secured ethical approvals and have held several consortium-wide meetings.
STARSTEM is off to a great start with the nanostar optimised for energy deposition at exactly the desired wavelength and much groundwork done for the cell preparation, animal studies and image acquisition, storage, co-registration and analysis. The next big challenge is to optimise uptake in the cells and hence push the sensitivity to cells in deep tissue in vivo to the limit.
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