Tracking stem cells using magnetic nanoparticles

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Nanomed Nanobiotechnol. Jul-Aug 2011;3(4):343-55. doi: 10.1002/wnan.140. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


Stem cell therapies offer great promise for many diseases, especially those without current effective treatments. It is believed that noninvasive imaging techniques, which offer the ability to track the status of cells after transplantation, will expedite progress in this field and help to achieve maximized therapeutic effect. Today's biomedical imaging technology allows for real-time, noninvasive monitoring of grafted stem cells including their biodistribution, migration, survival, and differentiation, with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of nanoparticle-labeled cells being one of the most commonly used techniques. Among the advantages of MR cell tracking are its high spatial resolution, no exposure to ionizing radiation, and clinical applicability. In order to track cells by MRI, the cells need to be labeled with magnetic nanoparticles, for which many types exist. There are several cellular labeling techniques available, including simple incubation, use of transfection agents, magnetoelectroporation, and magnetosonoporation. In this overview article, we will review the use of different magnetic nanoparticles and discuss how these particles can be used to track the distribution of transplanted cells in different organ systems. Caveats and limitations inherent to the tracking of nanoparticle-labeled stem cells are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electroporation
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetics
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Rhodamines / chemistry
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Transfection


  • Ferric Compounds
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Rhodamines
  • ferric oxide