Stem cell therapy holds great promise for tissue regeneration and cancer treatment, although its efficacy is still inconclusive and requires further understanding and optimization of the procedures. Non-invasive cell tracking can provide an important opportunity to monitor in vivo cell distribution in living subjects. Here, using a combination of positron emission tomography (PET) and in vitro 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-glucose ([18F]FDG) direct cell labelling, the feasibility of engrafted stem cell monitoring was tested in multiple animal species. Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were incubated with phosphate-buffered saline containing [18F]FDG for in vitro cell radiolabelling. The pre-labelled MSCs were administrated via peripheral vein in a mouse (n = 1), rats (n = 4), rabbits (n = 4) and non-human primates (n = 3), via carotid artery in rats (n = 4) and non-human primates (n = 3), and via intra-myocardial injection in rats (n = 5). PET imaging was started 10 min after cell administration using a dedicated small animal PET system for a mouse and rats. A clinical PET system was used for the imaging of rabbits and non-human primates. After MSC administration via peripheral vein, PET imaging revealed intense radiotracer signal from the lung in all tested animal species including mouse, rat, rabbit, and non-human primate, suggesting administrated MSCs were trapped in the lung tissue. Furthermore, the distribution of the PET signal significantly differed based on the route of cell administration. Administration via carotid artery showed the highest activity in the head, and intra-myocardial injection increased signal from the heart. In vitro [18F]FDG MSC pre-labelling for PET imaging is feasible and allows non-invasive visualization of initial cell distribution after different routes of cell administration in multiple animal models. Those results highlight the potential use of that imaging approach for the understanding and optimization of stem cell therapy in translational research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas