Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) offers a cure for cancers that are refractory to chemotherapy and radiation. Most HSCT recipients develop chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD), a systemic alloimmune attack on host organs. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and symptoms, as biopsies are risky. T cells are central to the biology of cGVHD. We found that a low Treg/CD4+ T effector memory (Tem) ratio in circulation, lymphoid, and target organs identified early and established mouse cGVHD. Using deuterated water labeling to measure multicompartment in vivo kinetics of these subsets, we show robust Tem and Treg proliferation in lymphoid and target organs, while Tregs undergo apoptosis in target organs. Since deuterium enrichment into DNA serves as a proxy for cell proliferation, we developed a whole-body clinically relevant deuterium MRI approach to nonradioactively detect cGVHD and potentially allow imaging of other diseases characterized by rapidly proliferating cells.
Nataliya P. Buxbaum, Donald E. Farthing, Natella Maglakelidze, Martin Lizak, Hellmut Merkle, Andrea C. Carpenter, Brittany U. Oliver, Veena Kapoor, Ehydel Castro, Gregory A. Swan, Liliane M. dos Santos, Nicolas J. Bouladoux, Catherine V. Bare, Francis A. Flomerfelt, Michael A. Eckhaus, William G. Telford, Yasmine Belkaid, Remy J. Bosselut, Ronald E. Gress