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Circulation. 2003 Apr 29;107(16):2134-9. Epub 2003 Apr 14.

Assessment of the tissue distribution of transplanted human endothelial progenitor cells by radioactive labeling.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Cardiology, University of Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany.



Transplantation of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) improves vascularization and left ventricular function after experimental myocardial ischemia. However, tissue distribution of transplanted EPCs has not yet been monitored in living animals. Therefore, we tested whether radioactive labeling allows us to detect injected EPCs.


Human EPCs were isolated from peripheral blood, characterized by expression of endothelial marker proteins, and radioactively labeled with [111In]indium oxine. EPCs (106) were injected in athymic nude rats 24 hours after myocardial infarction (n=8) or sham operation (n=8). Scintigraphic images were acquired after 1, 24, 48, and 96 hours after EPC injection. Animals were then killed, and specific radioactivity was measured in different tissues. At 24 to 96 hours after intravenous injection of EPCs, approximately 70% of the radioactivity was localized in the spleen and liver, with only approximately 1% of the radioactivity identified in the heart of sham-operated animals. After myocardial infarction, the heart-to-muscle radioactivity ratio increased significantly, from 1.02+/-0.19 in sham-operated animals to 2.03+/-0.37 after intravenous administration of EPCs. Injection of EPCs into the left ventricular cavity increased this ratio profoundly, from 2.69+/-1.54 in sham-operated animals to 4.70+/-1.55 (P<0.05) in rats with myocardial infarction. Immunostaining of cryosections from infarcted hearts confirmed that EPCs homed predominantly to the infarct border zone.


Although only a small proportion of radiolabeled EPCs are detected in nonischemic myocardium, myocardial infarction increases homing of transplanted EPCs in vivo profoundly. Radiolabeling might eventually provide an useful tool for monitoring the fate of transplanted progenitor cells and for clinical cell therapy.

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