Real-Time, In Situ Imaging of Macrophages via Phase-Change Peptide Nanoemulsions

Inhye Kim, Jacob C. Elliott, Atip Lawanprasert, Grace M. Wood, Julianna C. Simon, Scott H. Medina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Macrophages are specialized phagocytes that play central roles in immunity and tissue repair. Their diverse functionalities have led to an evolution of new allogenic and autologous macrophage products. However, realizing the full therapeutic potential of these cell-based therapies requires development of imaging technologies that can track immune cell migration within tissues in real-time. Such innovations will not only inform treatment regimens and empower interpretation of therapeutic outcomes but also enable prediction and early intervention during adverse events. Here, phase-changing nanoemulsion contrast agents are reported that permit real-time, continuous, and high-fidelity ultrasound imaging of macrophages in situ. Using a de novo designed peptide emulsifier, liquid perfluorocarbon nanoemulsions are prepared and show that rational control over interfacial peptide assembly affords formulations with tunable acoustic sensitivity, macrophage internalization, and in cellulo stability. Imaging experiments demonstrate that emulsion-loaded macrophages can be readily visualized using standard diagnostic B-mode and Doppler ultrasound modalities. This allows on-demand and long-term tracking of macrophages within porcine coronary arteries, as an exemplary model. The results demonstrate that this platform is poised to open new opportunities for non-invasive, contrast-enhanced imaging of cell-based immunotherapies in tissues, while leveraging the low-cost, portable, and safe nature of diagnostic ultrasound.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2301673
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biomaterials
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)

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