• Parkinson's disease;
  • neural stem cells;
  • transplantation;
  • in vivo tracking;
  • magnetic resonance imaging;
  • VSOPs


Fetal human neural precursor cells (NPCs) are unique with respect to their capacity to proliferate and to preserve their potential to differentiate into neurons and glia. Human mesencephalic neural precursor cells (hmNPCs) provide a source for dopaminergic neurons. Preclinical and clinical research will benefit from reliable in vivo tracking of transplanted cells. Here, we investigate the potency of very small superparamagnetic iron oxide particles (VSOPs) to label hmNPCs, the effect of VSOPs on survival, proliferation, and differentiation of hmNPCs, and the sensitivity of 1.5T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect labeled cells in living rats following transplantation. When incubated with VSOPs at 1.5 mM, >95% of hmNPCs incorporated VSOPs without detectable impact on cell viability (>90%) or proliferative capacity, as measured by the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and cell cycle distribution. Labeled hmNPCs differentiate into neurons (>30%) and glia with no detectable difference compared to nonlabeled cells. Following transplantation into rat striata, marked paramagnetic signal changes were detected for as long as three months postsurgery using MRI, corresponding to the histologically-identified graft. Our data indicate that hmNPCs can be labeled with VSOPs without impairment of viability, proliferation, or multipotency. Labeled, transplanted cells are detectable in vivo using 1.5T MRI. Magn Reson Med 60:1321–1328, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.