Stem cell therapy promises to open exciting new options in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Although feasible and clinically safe, the in vivo behavior and integration of stem cell transplants still remain largely unknown. Thus, the development of innovative non-invasive imaging techniques capable of effectively tracking such therapy in vivo is vital for a more in-depth investigation into future clinical applications. Such imaging modalities will not only generate further insight into the mechanisms behind stem cell-based therapy, but also address some major concerns associated with translational cardiovascular stem cell therapy. In the present review, we summarize the principles underlying three major stem cell tracking methods: (1) radioactive labeling for positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging, (2) iron particle labeling for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and (3) reporter gene labeling for bioluminescence, fluorescence, MRI, SPECT, and PET imaging. We then discuss recent clinical studies that have utilized these modalities to gain biological insights into stem cell fate.
Keywords: cardiovascular diseases, stem cells, imaging, radionuclide, magnetic resonance, bioluminescence