Stem cells show promise for repair of damaged cardiac tissue. Little is known with certainty, however, about the distribution of these cells once introduced in vivo. Previous attempts at tracking delivered stem cells have been hampered by the autofluorescence of host tissue and limitations of existing labeling techniques. We have developed a novel loading approach to stably label human mesenchymal stem cells with quantum dot (QD) nanoparticles. We report the optimization and validation of this long-term tracking technique and highlight several important biological applications by delivering labeled cells to the mammalian heart. The bright QD crystals illuminate exogenous stem cells in histologic sections for at least 8 weeks following delivery and permit, for the first time, the complete three-dimensional reconstruction of the locations of all stem cells following injection into the heart.
Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.