Noninvasive Tracking of Natural Killer Cells Using Gold Nanoparticles

Katerina Shamalov, Rinat Meir, Menachem Motiei, Rachela Popovtzer, Cyrille J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural killer (NK)-cell-based immunotherapy is emerging as an attractive approach for cancer treatment. However, to facilitate and expedite clinical implementation, important questions must be answered regarding the in vivo functionality and trafficking patterns of the transferred cells. We have recently developed a noninvasive cell-tracking technique, based on gold nanoparticles (GNPs) as cell-labeling and contrast agents for whole-body computed tomography (CT) imaging. Herein, we report the implementation of this technique for longitudinal and quantitative tracking of NK cell kinetics, the migration and biodistribution in tumor-bearing mice. NK cells were successfully labeled with GNPs, without impairing their biological function, as assessed both in vitro, by cytokine release and cytotoxicity assays, and in vivo, using a xenograft model of human tumors. Using CT, we longitudinally tracked the migration of intravenously injected NK cells and observed an accumulation of effector cell clusters at the tumor site, up to 72 h. Fluorescence imaging of the cells over time correlated with ex vivo quantitative analysis of gold content in the tumor, validating the accuracy and reliability of our technique. Our cell-tracking approach thus offers a valuable tool for preclinical studies, as well as for clinical applications, to elucidate the fate of NK cells and promote the implementation of NK-cell-based immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28507-28514
Number of pages8
JournalACS Omega
Issue number43
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Chemistry(all)


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