The progress of using gadolinium (Gd)-based nanoparticles in cellular tracking lags behind that of superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Here, dual functional Gd-fluorescein isothiocyanate mesoporous silica nanoparticles (Gd-Dye@MSN) that possess green fluorescence and paramagnetism are developed in order to evaluate their potential as effective T1-enhancing trackers for human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). hMSCs are labeled efficiently with Gd-Dye@MSN via endocytosis. Labeled hMSCs are unaffected in their viability, proliferation, and differentiation capacities into adipocytes, osteocytes, and chondrocytes, which can still be readily MRI detected. Imaging, with a clinical 1.5-T MRI system and a low incubation dosage of Gd, low detection cell numbers, and short incubation times is demonstrated on both loaded cells and hMSC-injected mouse brains. This study shows that the advantages of biocompatibility, durability, high internalizing efficiency, and pore architecture make MSNs an ideal vector of T1-agent for stem-cell tracking with MRI.
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