Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) hold tremendous therapeutic potential in a variety of diseases. Over the last decade, non-invasive imaging techniques have proven to be of great value in tracking transplanted hESCs. This review article will briefly summarize the various techniques used for non-invasive imaging of hESCs, which include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), bioluminescence imaging (BLI), fluorescence, single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET), and multimodality approaches. Although the focus of this review article is primarily on hESCs, the labeling/tracking strategies described here can be readily applied to other (stem) cell types as well. Non-invasive imaging can provide convenient means to monitor hESC survival, proliferation, function, as well as overgrowth (such as teratoma formation), which could not be readily investigated previously. The requirement for hESC tracking techniques depends on the clinical scenario and each imaging technique will have its own niche in preclinical/ clinical research. Continued evolvement of non-invasive imaging techniques will undoubtedly contribute to significant advances in understanding stem cell biology and mechanisms of action.
Keywords: Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), Molecular imaging, Regenerative medicine, Cell tracking, Bioluminescence imaging (BLI), Positron emission tomography (PET), Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)