In vivo Cell Tracking Using Non-invasive Imaging of Iron Oxide-Based Particles with Particular Relevance for Stem Cell-Based Treatments of Neurological and Cardiac Disease

Mol Imaging Biol. 2020 Dec;22(6):1469-1488. doi: 10.1007/s11307-019-01440-4.


Stem cell-based therapeutics is a rapidly developing field associated with a number of clinical challenges. One such challenge lies in the implementation of methods to track stem cells and stem cell-derived cells in experimental animal models and in the living patient. Here, we provide an overview of cell tracking in the context of cardiac and neurological disease, focusing on the use of iron oxide-based particles (IOPs) visualized in vivo using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We discuss the types of IOPs available for such tracking, their advantages and limitations, approaches for labeling cells with IOPs, biological interactions and effects of IOPs at the molecular and cellular levels, and MRI-based and associated approaches for in vivo and histological visualization. We conclude with reviews of the literature on IOP-based cell tracking in cardiac and neurological disease, covering both preclinical and clinical studies.

Keywords: Cardiomyocytes; Iron oxide; MION; MPI; MPIO; MRI; Micro-CT; Neural progenitor cells; SPIO; Stem cell; USPIO.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Tracking*
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry*
  • Heart Diseases / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imaging*
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*


  • Ferric Compounds
  • ferric oxide