• cell transplantation;
  • magnetic resonance;
  • contrast agents;
  • injury;
  • photochemical lesion;
  • spinal cord lesion

Abstract: Stem cells are a promising tool for treating brain and spinal cord injury. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a noninvasive method to study the fate of transplanted cells in vivo. We studied implanted rat bone marrow stromal cells (MSCs) and mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) labeled with iron-oxide nanoparticles (Endorem®) and human CD34+ cells labeled with magnetic MicroBeads (Miltenyi) in rats with a cortical or spinal cord lesion. Cells were grafted intracerebrally, contralaterally to a cortical photochemical lesion, or injected intravenously. During the first week post transplantation, transplanted cells migrated to the lesion. About 3% of MSCs and ESCs differentiated into neurons, while no MSCs, but 75% of ESCs differentiated into astrocytes. Labeled MSCs, ESCs, and CD34+ cells were visible in the lesion on MR images as a hypointensive signal, persisting for more than 50 days. In rats with a balloon-induced spinal cord compression lesion, intravenously injected MSCs migrated to the lesion, leading to a hypointensive MRI signal. In plantar and Basso-Beattie-Bresnehan (BBB) tests, grafted animals scored better than lesioned animals injected with saline solution. Histologic studies confirmed a decrease in lesion size. We also used 3-D polymer constructs seeded with MSCs to bridge a spinal cord lesion. Our studies demonstrate that grafted adult as well as embryonic stem cells labeled with iron-oxide nanoparticles migrate into a lesion site in brain as well as in spinal cord.