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Theranostics. 2013 Jul 31;3(8):595-615. doi: 10.7150/thno.5366. eCollection 2013.

Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles as MRI contrast agents for non-invasive stem cell labeling and tracking.

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National Engineering Research Center for Biomaterials, Sichuan University, 29 Wangjiang Road, Chengdu 610064, Sichuan, China.


Stem cells hold great promise for the treatment of multiple human diseases and disorders. Tracking and monitoring of stem cells in vivo after transplantation can supply important information for determining the efficacy of stem cell therapy. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) combined with contrast agents is believed to be the most effective and safest non-invasive technique for stem cell tracking in living bodies. Commercial superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) in the aid of transfection agents (TAs) have been applied to labeling stem cells. However, owing to the potential toxicity of TAs, more attentions have been paid to develop novel SPIONs with specific surface coating or functional moieties which facilitate effective cell internalization in the absence of TAs. This review aims to summarize the recent progress in the design and preparation of SPIONs as cellular MRI probes, to discuss their applications and current problems facing in stem cell labeling and tracking, and to offer perspectives and solutions for the future development of SPIONs in this field.


labeling; magnetic resonance imaging.; stem cells; superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles; tracking

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