In Vivo Photoacoustic Tracking of Mesenchymal Stem Cell Viability

Kabir S., Dhada, Derek S., Hernandez, Laura J., Suggs

ACS Nano |

Adult stem cell therapy has demonstrated improved outcomes for treating cardiovascular diseases in preclinical trials. The development of imaging tools may increase our understanding of the mechanisms of stem cell therapy, and a variety of imaging tools have been developed to image transplanted stem cells in vivo; however, they lack the ability to interrogate stem cell function longitudinally. Here, we report the use of a nanoparticle-based contrast agent that can track stem cell viability using photoacoustic imaging. The contrast agent consists of inert gold nanorods coated with IR775c, a reactive oxygen species (ROS) sensitive near-infrared dye. Upon cell death, stem cells produce ROS to degrade the cell. Using this feature of stem cells, the viability can be measured by comparing the IR775c signal to the ROS insensitive gold nanorod signal, which can also be used to track stem cell location. The nanoprobe was successfully loaded into mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), and then, MSCs were transplanted into the lower limb of a mouse and imaged using combined ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging. MSC viability was assessed using the nanoprobe and displayed significant cell death within 24 h and an estimated 5% viability after 10 days. This nanoparticle system allows for longitudinal tracking of MSC viability in vivo with high spatial and temporal resolution which other imaging modalities currently cannot achieve.