In vivo magnetic resonance tracking of magnetically labeled cells after transplantation

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2002 Aug;22(8):899-907. doi: 10.1097/00004647-200208000-00001.


During the last few years, the therapeutic use of stem and progenitor cells as a substitute for malfunctioning endogenous cell populations has received considerable attention. Unlike their current use in animal models, the introduction of therapeutic cells in patients will require techniques that can monitor their tissue biodistribution noninvasively. Among the different imaging modalities, magnetic resonance (MR) imaging offers both near-cellular (i.e., 25- to 50-mu) resolution and whole-body imaging capability. In order to be visualized, cells must be labeled with an intracellular tracer molecule that can be detected by MR imaging. Methods have now been developed that make it possible to incorporate sufficient amounts of superparamagnetic iron oxide into cells, enabling their detection in vivo using MR imaging. This is illustrated for (neural stem cell-derived) magnetically labeled oligodendroglial progenitors, transplanted in the central nervous system of dysmyelinated rats. Cells can be followed in vivo for at least 6 weeks after transplantation, with a good histopathologic correlation including the formation of myelin. Now that MR tracking of magnetically labeled cells appears feasible, it is anticipated that this technique may ultimately become an important tool for monitoring the efficacy of clinical (stem) cell transplantation protocols.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Contrast Media
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Contrast Media
  • Ferric Compounds
  • ferric oxide