September 1st 2005
Cellular MRI is principally performed by labeling cells in culture with an intracellular contrast agent, transplanting the cells into a host, and tracking the migration with MRI. The approach poses potential problems, particularly with respect to stem cells. Cell culture cannot accurately reproduce the chemical and physical niche environment in which stem cells reside. Cell culture might alter the differentiation of stem cells into their natural fate. Eric M. Shapiro, Ph.D., and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health have developed a protocol that avoids the potential problems by means of in vivo labeling of stem cells. Because MRI can detect single-micron-sized particles, poor labeling efficiency does not pose a problem, enabling in vivo stem cell labeling and tracking.