Real-time in vivo monitoring of viable stem cells implanted on biocompatible scaffolds

Do Won Hwang, Sung June Jang, Yun Hui Kim, Hyun Joo Kim, In Kyong Shim, Jae Min Jeong, June Key Chung, Myung Chul Lee, Seung Jin Lee, Seung U. Kim, Soonhag Kim, Dong Soo Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Purpose: Three-dimensional fibrous scaffolds provide an environment that enhances transplanted stem cell survival in vivo and facilitates imaging their localization, viability, and growth in vivo. To assess transplanted stem cell viability on biocompatible polymer scaffolds in vivo, we developed in vivo imaging systems for evaluation of implanted viable neural stem cells (NSC) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) on scaffolds using luciferase or sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) genes. Methods: Firefly luciferase stably expressing-C6 cell was established (C6-Fluc). The human neural stem cell, F3, was infected with adenoviral vector carrying luciferase gene (F3-Fluc) and MSC expressing NIS controlled by ubiquitin C promoter using lentiviral vector was established by treating blasticidine for 2 weeks (MSC-NIS). Chitosan and poly l-lactic acid (PLLA) scaffolds were used for in vivo image. In vivo expression of luciferase and human NIS was examined by bioluminescence image or 99mTc- pertechnetate gamma camera image, respectively. The cell/scaffold complex was implanted into subcutaneous or abdominal area of BALB/C nude mouse. For quantitative evaluation of cell viability, regions of interest were drawn on 99mTc-pertechnetate scintigraphy by manual. Results: The gradual increase of luciferase activity was observed in C6-Fluc seeded with chitosan according to the increase in the number of cells. C6-Fluc/chitosan complex subcutaneously implanted into nude mice showed longitudinal bioluminescence image until 34 days. Luciferase image of abdominal-injected C6-Fluc/PLLA complex was saturated in only 14 days, showing great cell growth due to abundant nutrients. F3 cells showed well-incorporated pattern with fibrous chitosan scaffold using scanning electron microscopy. F3 infected with Ad-Fluc showed >100-fold higher luciferase activity than luciferase activity in F3. Cell-number-dependent increase of luciferase activity was shown in F3-Fluc seeded on chitosan. F3-Fluc incorporation into chitosan after abdominal injection was clearly visible on bioluminescence image up to 11 days. Radionuclide imaging showed higher uptake by MSC-NIS on PLLA scaffolds than by MSC-NIS not seeded on a scaffold. Quantitative data showed significantly better survival of MSC-NIS on PLLA scaffolds than without scaffold at 72 h post-implantation, which concurred with histologic findings. Conclusion: These results suggest that NSC-Fluc and MSC-NIS cells incorporated within polymer scaffolds can be monitored on a long-term basis by serial in vivo imaging. We believe that a biocompatible scaffold-based imaging system could be used to assess stem cell viabilities in a non-invasive way to aid the development of regenerative therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1887-1898
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Dr. Sang Hee Kim of the Asan Medical Center, Seoul, South Korea for generously donating the rat mesenchymal stem cells. This work was supported by Nano Bio Regenomics Project of Korean Science and Engineering Foundation and by Innovation Cluster for Advanced Medical Imaging Technology. This study was made easier using KREONET, Korean Research Network, a nation-wide Giga-bps network system.


  • Mesenchymal stem cell
  • Molecular imaging
  • Neural stem cell
  • Polymer scaffold
  • Stem cell imaging


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