External magnetic field promotes homing of magnetized stem cells following subcutaneous injection

BMC Cell Biol. 2017 May 26;18(1):24. doi: 10.1186/s12860-017-0140-1.


Background: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent stromal cells that have the ability to self-renew and migrate to sites of pathology. In vivo tracking of MSCs provides insights into both, the underlying mechanisms of MSC transformation and their potential as gene delivery vehicles. The aim of our study was to assess the ability of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs)-labeled Wharton's Jelly of the human umbilical cord-derived MSCs (WJ-MSCs) to carry the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene to cutaneous injury sites in a murine model.

Methods: WJ-MSCs were isolated from a fresh umbilical cord and were genetically transformed to carry the GFP gene using lentiviral vectors with magnetically labeled SPIONs. The SPIONs/GFP-positive WJ-MSCs expressed multipotent cell markers and demonstrated the potential for osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation. Fifteen skin-injured mice were divided into three groups. Group I was treated with WJ-MSCs, group II with SPIONs/GFP-positive WJ-MSCs, and group III with SPIONs/GFP-positive WJ-MSCs exposed to an external magnetic field (EMF). Magnetic resonance imaging and optical molecular imaging were performed, and images were acquired 1, 2, and 7 days after cell injection.

Results: The results showed that GFP could be intensively detected around the wound in vivo 24 h after the cells were injected. Furthermore, we observed an accumulation of WJ-MSCs at the wound site, and EMF exposure increased the speed of cell transport. In conclusion, our study demonstrated that SPIONs/GFP function as cellular probes for monitoring in vivo migration and homing of WJ-MSCs. Moreover, exposure to an EMF can increase the transportation efficiency of SPIONs-labeled WJ-MSCs in vivo.

Conclusions: Our findings could lead to the development of a gene carrier system for the treatment of diseases.

Keywords: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs); Rat; Stem cells; UC.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Cell Tracking / methods*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Magnetic Fields*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Optical Imaging
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stem Cell Transplantation


  • Biomarkers
  • Magnetite Nanoparticles