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Photoacoustic Imaging of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Labeled with Prussian Blue–Poly(L-lysine) Nanocomplexes

Taeho Kim, Jeanne E Lemaster, Fang Chen, Jin Li, Jesse V Jokerst
ACS Nano2017
Acoustic imaging is affordable and accessible without ionizing radiation. Photoacoustic imaging increases the contrast of traditional ultrasound and can offer good spatial resolution when used at high frequencies with excellent temporal resolution. Prussian blue nanoparticles (PBNPs) are an emerging photoacoustic contrast agent with strong optical absorption in the near-infrared region. In this study, we developed a simple and efficient method to label human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) with PBNPs and imaged them with photoacoustic imaging. First, PBNPs were synthesized by the reaction of FeCl3 with K4[Fe(CN)6] in the presence of citric acid and complexed with the cationic transfection agent poly-L-lysine (PLL). The PLL-coated PBNPs (PB−PLL nanocomplexes) have a maximum absorption peak at 715 nm and could efficiently label hMSCs. Cellular uptake of these nanocomplexes was studied using bright field, fluorescence, and transmission electron microscopy. The labeled stem cells were successfully differentiated into two downstream lineages of adipocytes and osteocytes, and they showed positive expression for surface markers of CD73, CD90, and CD105. No changes in viability or proliferation of the labeled cells were observed, and the secretome cytokine analysis indicated that the expression levels of 12 different proteins were not dysregulated by PBNP labeling. The optical properties of PBNPs were preserved postlabeling, suitable for the sensitive and quantitative detection of implanted cells. Labeled hMSCs exhibited strong photoacoustic contrast in vitro and in vivo when imaged at 730 nm, and the detection limit was 200 cells/μL in vivo. The photoacoustic signal increased as a function of cell concentration, indicating that the number of labeled cells can be quantified during and after cell transplantations. In hybrid ultrasound/photoacoustic imaging, this approach offers real-time and image-guided cellular injection even through an intact skull for brain intraparenchymal injections. Our labeling and imaging technique allowed the detection and monitoring of 5 × 104 mesenchymal stem cells in living mice over a period of 14 days. KEYWORDS:
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