Mapping the acute time course of immune cell infiltration into an ECM hydrogel in a rat model of stroke using 19F MRI

Michel Modo*, Harmanvir Ghuman, Reem Azar, Ryan Krafty, Stephen F. Badylak, T. Kevin Hitchens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Extracellular matrix (ECM) hydrogel implantation into a stroke-induced tissue cavity invokes a robust cellular immune response. However, the spatio-temporal dynamics of immune cell infiltration into peri-infarct brain tissues versus the ECM-bioscaffold remain poorly understood. We here tagged peripheral immune cells using perfluorocarbon (PFC) nanoemulsions that afford their visualization by 19F magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Prior to ECM hydrogel implantation, only blood vessels could be detected using 19F MRI. Using “time-lapse” 19F MRI, we established the infiltration of immune cells into the peri-infarct area occurs 5–6 h post-ECM implantation. Immune cells also infiltrated through the stump of the MCA, as well as a hydrogel bridge that formed between the tissue cavity and the burr hole in the skull. Tissue-based migration into the bioscaffold was observed between 9 and 12 h with a peak signal measured between 12 and 18 h post-implantation. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting of circulating immune cells revealed that 9% of cells were labeled with PFC nanoemulsions, of which the vast majority were neutrophils (40%) or monocytes (48%). Histology at 24 h post-implantation, in contrast, indicated that macrophages (35%) were more numerous in the peri-infarct area than neutrophils (11%), whereas the vast majority of immune cells within the ECM hydrogel were neutrophils (66%). Only a small fraction (12%) of immune cells did not contain PFC nanoemulsions, indicating a low type II error for 19F MRI. 19F MRI hence provides a unique tool to improve our understanding of the spatio-temporal dynamics of immune cells invading bioscaffolds and effecting biodegradation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121386
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioscaffold
  • Extracellular matrix
  • F MRI
  • Hydrogel
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages
  • Nanoemulsion
  • Perfluorocarbon
  • Stroke


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