Original article

Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 571-583

First online:

Extensive expansion of primary human gamma delta T cells generates cytotoxic effector memory cells that can be labeled with Feraheme for cellular MRI

  • Gabrielle M. SiegersAffiliated withImaging Research Laboratories, Robarts Research Institute, Western University Email author 
  • , Emeline J. RibotAffiliated withImaging Research Laboratories, Robarts Research Institute, Western University
  • , Armand KeatingAffiliated withCell Therapy Program, Princess Margaret Hospital, University of Toronto
  • , Paula J. FosterAffiliated withImaging Research Laboratories, Robarts Research Institute, Western University

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Gamma delta T cells (GDTc) comprise a small subset of cytolytic T cells shown to kill malignant cells in vitro and in vivo. We have developed a novel protocol to expand GDTc from human blood whereby GDTc were initially expanded in the presence of alpha beta T cells (ABTc) that were then depleted prior to use. We achieved clinically relevant expansions of up to 18,485-fold total GDTc, with 18,849-fold expansion of the Vδ1 GDTc subset over 21 days. ABTc depletion yielded 88.1 ± 4.2 % GDTc purity, and GDTc continued to expand after separation. Immunophenotyping revealed that expanded GDTc were mostly CD27-CD45RA- and CD27-CD45RA+ effector memory cells. GDTc cytotoxicity against PC-3M prostate cancer, U87 glioblastoma and EM-2 leukemia cells was confirmed. Both expanded Vδ1 and Vδ2 GDTc were cytotoxic to PC-3M in a T cell antigen receptor- and CD18-dependent manner. We are the first to label GDTc with ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide (USPIO) nanoparticles for cellular MRI. Using protamine sulfate and magnetofection, we achieved up to 40 % labeling with clinically approved Feraheme (Ferumoxytol), as determined by enumeration of Perls’ Prussian blue-stained cytospins. Electron microscopy at 2,800× magnification verified the presence of internalized clusters of iron oxide; however, high iron uptake correlated negatively with cell viability. We found improved USPIO uptake later in culture. MRI of GDTc in agarose phantoms was performed at 3 Tesla. The signal-to-noise ratios for unlabeled and labeled cells were 56 and 21, respectively. Thus, Feraheme-labeled GDTc could be readily detected in vitro via MRI.


Gamma delta T cell expansion Gamma delta T cell cytotoxicity Iron labeling Preclinical cellular immunotherapy