In vivo Ultrasound and Photoacoustic Monitoring of Mesenchymal Stem Cells Labeled with Gold Nanotracers

Seung Yun Nam, Laura M Ricles, Laura J Suggs, Stanislav Y Emelianov
PLoS ONE2012
Longitudinal monitoring of cells is required in order to understand the role of delivered stem cells in therapeutic neovascularization. However, there is not an imaging technique that is capable of quantitative, longitudinal assessment of stem cell behaviors with high spatial resolution and sufficient penetration depth. In this study, in vivo and in vitro experiments were performed to demonstrate the efficacy of ultrasound-guided photoacoustic (US/PA) imaging to monitor mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) labeled with gold nanotracers (Au NTs). The Au NT labeled MSCs, injected intramuscularly in the lower limb of the Lewis rat, were detected and spatially resolved. Furthermore, our quantitative in vitro cell studies indicate that US/PA imaging is capable of high detection sensitivity (1×10⁴ cells/mL) of the Au NT labeled MSCs. Finally, Au NT labeled MSCs captured in the PEGylated fibrin gel system were imaged in vivo, as well as in vitro, over a one week time period, suggesting that longitudinal cell tracking using US/PA imaging is possible. Overall, Au NT labeling of MSCs and US/PA imaging can be an alternative approach in stem cell imaging capable of noninvasive, sensitive, quantitative, longitudinal assessment of stem cell behaviors with high spatial and temporal resolutions at sufficient depths.
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