Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are used to restore deteriorated cell environments. There is a need to specifically track these cells following transplantation in order to evaluate different methods of implantation, to follow their migration within the body, and to quantify their accumulation at the target. Cellular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) using fluorine-based nanoemulsions is a great means to detect these transplanted cells in vivo because of the high specificity for fluorine detection and the capability for precise quantification. This technique, however, has low sensitivity, necessitating improvement in MR sequences. To counteract this issue, the balanced steady-state free precession (bSSFP) imaging sequence can be of great interest due to the high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Furthermore, it can be applied to obtain 3D images within short acquisition times. In this paper, bSSFP provided accurate quantification of samples of the perfluorocarbon Cell Sense-labeled cells in vitro. Cell Sense was internalized by human MSC (hMSC) without adverse alterations in cell viability or differentiation into adipocytes/osteocytes. The bSSFP sequence was applied in vivo to track and quantify the signals from both Cell Sense-labeled and iron-labeled hMSC after intramuscular implantation. The fluorine signal was observed to decrease faster and more significantly than the volume of iron-associated voids, which points to the advantage of quantifying the fluorine signal and the complexity of quantifying signal loss due to iron.
Keywords: bSSFP; cell tracking; fluorine MRI; mesenchymal stem cell; mouse.