Magneto-Activation and Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Natural Killer Cells Labeled with Magnetic Nanocomplexes for the Treatment of Solid Tumors

Taehoon Sim, Bongseo Choi, Soon Woo Kwon, Kwang Soo Kim, Hyunjun Choi, Alexander Ross, Dong Hyun Kim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK) cell-based immunotherapy has been considered a promising cell-based cancer treatment strategy with low side effects for early tumors and metastasis. However, the therapeutic efficacy is generally low in established solid tumors. Ex vivo activation of NK cells with exogenous cytokines is often essential but ineffective to generate high doses of functional NK cells for cancer treatment. Image-guided local delivery of NK cells is also suggested for the therapy. However, there is a lack of noninvasive tools for monitoring NK cells. Herein, magnetic nanocomplexes are fabricated with clinically available materials (hyaluronic acid, protamine, and ferumoxytol; HAPF) for labeling NK cells. The prepared HAPF-nanocomplexes effectively attach to the NK cells (HAPF-NK). An exogenous magnetic field application effectively achieves magneto-activation of NK cells, promoting the generation and secretion of lytic granules of NK cells. The magneto-activated HAPF-NK cells also allow an MR image-guided NK cell therapy to treat hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) solid tumors via transcatheter intra-arterial infusion. Suppressed tumor growth after the treatment of IA infused magneto-activated NK cells demonstrated a potential enhanced therapeutic efficacy of image guided local delivery of magneto-activated HAPF-NK cells. Given the potential challenges of NK cell cancer immunotherapy against established solid tumors, the effective NK cell labeling with HAPF, magneto-activation, and MRI contrast effect of NK cells will be beneficial to enhance the NK cell-therapeutic efficacy in various cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12780-12793
Number of pages14
JournalACS nano
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 24 2021


  • cancer therapy
  • cell labeling
  • magneto-activation
  • nanocomplexes
  • natural killer cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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