Jeff W. M. Bulte, Ph.D.
The clinical development of novel immune and stem cell therapies calls for suitable methods that can follow the fate of cells non-invasively in humans at high resolution. The Bulte lab has pioneered methods to label cells magnetically (using tiny superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles) in order to make them visible by MR imaging. Following years of extensive animal research, this technology has now been introduced in the clinic for several cell therapy applications. MRI cell tracking is pursued in animal models of dysmyelination, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, spinal cord, stroke, and diabetes. Novel reporter genes are being developed that can provide contrast on MRI scans. Artificial proteins are being designed, cloned, and expressed in mammalian cells that contain specific proton exchangable groups of which the proton signal can be manipulated. While the lab is doing basic bench-type research, there is a strong interaction with the clinical interventional radiology and oncology groups in order to bring the methodologies into the clinic. A new clinical trial on fluorine-based MRI of adipose-derived stem cells for breast reconstruction is anticipated to start in the beginning of 2014.