Angiography and MPI: an interview with Professor Mauro Magnani University of Urbino

Thought leader series

Please can you introduce yourself and your work?

I am Mauro Magnani, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Urbino, Italy. My background is essentially the transition of activity from the lab to application. I am also the founder of a spin-off company called EryDel, which uses technology to load materials or drugs inside cells.
We will present new modalities for keeping the nanoparticle tracer that is so central to the technology, in circulation. We have discovered that these nanoparticles, which are usually taken up by bodily tissues immediately after injection, can stay in circulation longer if we can mimic some cells that are typically present in the blood, such as red blood cells.
When we were working with red blood cells to deliver drugs into the circulation and to deliver antigenic proteins for in-vivo induction of immunological responses, we realized that the major problem was keeping the nanoparticles in circulation. We then decided to incorporate something inside the red cells and have this material circulating inside them.
The red cells then keep this material completely within the circulation and the body does not recognize the nanoparticle.
My job is mainly to provide a system for monitoring blood flow, especially to provide technologies that permit angiographic detection of occlusion, vessel damage or leaky vessels, as well as to provide general information that offers more clues about the physiology of the body than imaging of the body does.

Could you please outline the device you have developed?

We have developed a medical device for opening the red cells, putting the nanoparticles inside them and then closing the pores of the red cells. This produces a red cell that is identical to the native one. It’s interesting that this can be done with autologous blood. A patient gives just 10 or 20 ml of blood and then they receive their blood back with the nanoparticles inside.

What applications could this lead to?

My feeling is that there are a number of potential applications that need developing in the future. One area is to ensure the circulatory system is able to keep the nanoparticles in circulation.
We may then see something that is similar to functional MRI, where instead of just obtaining pictures of the body, we obtain a dynamic movie of what's happening inside it, something that is only possible with MPI.

How important do you think MPI will be in the future of angiography?

My work suggests that angiography is certainly a big area where we can take advantage of MPI, Also, we can detect new angiogenesis in tumors, for example, or detect blood flow in the brain in cases of stroke or damage caused by other conditions.
Functional MRI is one area, angiogenesis is another area, and certainly all of the critical conditions where an increase or reduction of blood flow can eventually be associated with damage of the blood vessels, are other areas.

What further work is needed to achieve this?

What is missing is application. We have a lot of work to do to develop the appropriate equipment for the technology in terms of the nanoparticles that are selected for the procedure and demonstrating what the benefits are of this technology over the techniques that are currently available.
I imagine that MPI can provide all the dynamic information about the body's response to external stimulus, to external change in the conditions where we operate and to external events that happen to our body.
I think this is not actually feasible or possible with the technologies we currently have, but will certainly be possible if we are able to bring this MPI technology to the clinic.