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Mol Imaging. 2011 Apr;10(2):111-22.

Molecular imaging and stem cell research.

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  • 1Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, JohnsHopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA.


During the last decade, there has been enormous progress in understanding both multipotent stem cells such as hematopoietic stem cells and pluripotent stem cells such as embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. However, it has been challenging to study developmental potentials of these stem cells because they reside in complex cellular environments and aspects of their distribution, migration, engraftment, survival, proliferation, and differentiation often could not be sufficiently elucidated based on limited snapshot images of location or environment or molecular markers. Therefore, reliable imaging methods to monitor or track the fate of the stem cells are highly desirable. Both short-term and more permanent monitoring of stem cells in cultures and in live organisms have benefited from recently developed imaging approaches that are designed to investigate cell behavior and function. Confocal and multiphoton microscopy, time-lapse imaging technology, and series of noninvasive imaging technologies enable us to investigate cell behavior in the context of a live organism. In turn, the knowledge gained has brought our understanding of stem cell biology to a new level. In this review, we discuss the application of current imaging modalities for research of hematopoietic stem cells and pluripotent stem cells and the challenges ahead.

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