Complementary early-phase magnetic particle imaging and late-phase positron emission tomography reporter imaging of mesenchymal stem cells in vivo

Nanoscale. 2023 Feb 16;15(7):3408-3418. doi: 10.1039/d2nr03684c.


Stem cell-based therapies have demonstrated significant potential in clinical applications for many debilitating diseases. The ability to non-invasively and dynamically track the location and viability of stem cells post administration could provide important information on individual patient response and/or side effects. Multi-modal cell tracking provides complementary information that can offset the limitations of a single imaging modality to yield a more comprehensive picture of cell fate. In this study, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were engineered to express human sodium iodide symporter (NIS), a clinically relevant positron emission tomography (PET) reporter gene, as well as labeled with superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIOs) to allow for detection with magnetic particle imaging (MPI). MSCs were additionally engineered with a preclinical bioluminescence imaging (BLI) reporter gene for comparison of BLI cell viability data to both MPI and PET data over time. MSCs were implanted into the hind limbs of immunocompromised mice and imaging with MPI, BLI and PET was performed over a 30-day period. MPI showed sensitive detection that steadily declined over the 30-day period, while BLI showed initial decreases followed by later rapid increases in signal. The PET signal of MSCs was significantly higher than the background at later timepoints. Early-phase imaging (day 0-9 post MSC injections) showed correlation between MPI and BLI data (R2 = 0.671), while PET and BLI showed strong correlation for late-phase (day 10-30 post MSC injections) imaging timepoints (R2 = 0.9817). We report the first use of combined MPI and PET for cell tracking and show the complementary benefits of MPI for sensitive detection of MSCs early after implantation and PET for longer-term measurements of cell viability.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Phenomena
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation* / methods
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells*
  • Mice
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods