Biotechnology startup company Bell Biosystems is developing a unique approach to improve in vivo tracking of cell therapies following transplantation, and they are targeting applications in ALS. Bell Bio’s Magnelle contrast agents are derived from magnetotactic bacteria (MTB), a type of non-pathogenic bacteria that can be visualized on MRI. Cells labeled with Magnelles can be tracked longitudinally in vivo by MRI and provide information on migration, engraftment and survival of transplanted cells. Preclinical studies in rodents have demonstrated the utility of Magnelles in tracking transplanted stem cells for cardiovascular applications (Mahmoudi et al., 2016). The company has recently announced the award of a Phase II SBIR grant from the NIH to test applications of the technology to cell therapies in ALS in collaboration with Clive Svendsen from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
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Mahmoudi M, Tachibana A, Goldstone AB, Woo YJ, Chakraborty P, Lee KR, Foote CS, Piecewicz S, Barrozo JC, Wakeel A, Rice BW, Bell III CB, Yang PC. Novel MRI Contrast Agent from Magnetotactic Bacteria Enables In Vivo Tracking of iPSC-derived Cardiomyocytes. Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 6;6:26960. [Pubmed].