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Targeting particles to sites of inflammation is of considerable interest for applications relating to molecular imaging and drug delivery. We and others have described micron-sized particles of iron oxide (MPIO) that can be directed using specific ligands (e.g. antibodies, peptides and oligosaccharides) to bind to mediators of vascular inflammation in vivo. Since leukocyte binding to these molecules can induce changes in the target cell, an outstanding question has been whether the binding of imaging particles to these mediators induces biologically significant changes in the endothelial cells, potentially initiating or propagating inflammation. Here, we address these questions by looking for changes in endothelial cells following binding of contrast agent. Specifically, we have quantified calcium flux, rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton, production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), apoptosis and potential secondary changes, such as changes in gene and protein expression follow binding events to primary endothelial cells in vitro. Although leukocytes induced changes to endothelial cell function, we did not see any significant changes to endothelial calcium flux, cytoskeletal organisation, production of ROS or induction of apoptosis in response to antibody-MPIO binding. Furthermore, there were no changes to gene expression monitored via real-time RT-PCR or presentation of protein on the cell surface measured using flow cytometry. Our experiments demonstrate that whilst antibody-targeted microparticles mimic the binding capability of leukocytes to inflamed endothelium, they do not trigger the same cellular responses and do not appear to initiate or compound inflammation. These properties are desirable for targeted therapeutic and diagnostic agents.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





428 - 436


Inflammation, Microparticles, Molecular Imaging, Actins, Calcium, Cells, Cultured, Contrast Media, Endothelial Cells, Ferric Compounds, Gene Expression Profiling, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Particulate Matter, Reactive Oxygen Species, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction