Personalized treatment using stem, modified or genetically engineered, cells is becoming a reality in the field of medicine, in which allogenic or autologous cells can be used for treatment and possibly for early diagnosis of diseases. Hematopoietic, stromal and organ specific stem cells are under evaluation for cell-based therapies for cardiac, neurological, autoimmune and other disorders. Cytotoxic or genetically altered T-cells are under clinical trial for the treatment of hematopoietic or other malignant diseases. Before using stem cells in clinical trials, translational research in experimental animal models are essential, with a critical emphasis on developing noninvasive methods for tracking the temporal and spatial homing of these cells to target tissues. Moreover, it is necessary to determine the transplanted cells, engraftment efficiency and functional capability. Various in vivo imaging modalities are in use to track the movement and incorporation of administered cells. Tagging cells with reporter genes, fluorescent dyes or different contrast agents transforms them into cellular probes or imaging agents. Recent reports have shown that magnetically labeled cells can be used as cellular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) probes, demonstrating the cell trafficking to target tissues. In this review, we will discuss the methods to transform cells into probes for in vivo imaging, along with their advantages and disadvantages as well as the future clinical applicability of cellular imaging method and corresponding imaging modality.
Keywords: Cellular magnetic resonance (CMRI), Stem cells, cell tracking, SPION, Magnetic cell labeling