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Indocyanine Green labeling for optical and photoacoustic imaging of Mesenchymal Stem Cells after in vivo transplantation

M Filippi, F Garello, C Pasquino, F Arena, P Giustetto, F Antico, E Terreno
Journal of Biophotonics2018
The transplantation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) holds great promise for the treatment of a plethora of human diseases, but new non-invasive procedures are needed to monitor the cell fate in vivo. Already largely used in medical diagnostics, the fluorescent dye Indocyanine Green (ICG) is an established dye to track limited numbers of cells by optical imaging, but it can be visualized also by Photoacoustic Imaging (PAI), which provides a higher spatial resolution than pure near infrared fluorescence imaging (NIRF). Because of its successful use in clinical and preclinical examinations, we chose ICG as PAI cell labeling agent. Optimal incubation conditions were defined for an efficient and clinically translatable MSC labeling protocol, such that no cytotoxicity or alterations of the phenotypic profile were observed, and a consistent intracellular uptake of the molecule was achieved. Suspensions of ICG-labeled cells were both optically and optoacoustically detected in vitro, revealing a certain variability in the photoacoustic spectra acquired by varying the excitation wavelength from 680 to 970 nm. Intramuscular engraftments of ICG-labeled MSCs were clearly visualized by both PAI and NIRF over few days after transplantation in the hindlimb of healthy mice, suggesting that the proposed technique retains a considerable potential in the field of transplantation-focused research and therapy. Stem cells were labeled with the FDA approved fluorescent dye Indocyanine Green (ICG), and detected by both photoacoustic and optical imaging, enabling to monitor the cell fate safely, in dual modality, and with good sensitivity and improved spatial resolution.
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