Theranostics 2012; 2(4):335-345. doi:10.7150/thno.3666


Molecular Imaging of Stem Cells: Tracking Survival, Biodistribution, Tumorigenicity, and Immunogenicity

Eugene Gu1,2, Wen-Yi Chen1,2, Jay Gu2, Paul Burridge1,2, Joseph C. Wu1,2,3 ✉

1. Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology
2. Department of Radiology, Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS)
3. Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA


Being able to self-renew and differentiate into virtually all cell types, both human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have exciting therapeutic implications for myocardial infarction, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, and other disorders involving irreversible cell loss. However, stem cell biology remains incompletely understood despite significant advances in the field. Inefficient stem cell differentiation, difficulty in verifying successful delivery to the target organ, and problems with engraftment all hamper the transition from laboratory animal studies to human clinical trials. Although traditional histopathological techniques have been the primary approach for ex vivo analysis of stem cell behavior, these postmortem examinations are unable to further elucidate the underlying mechanisms in real time and in vivo. Fortunately, the advent of molecular imaging has led to unprecedented progress in understanding the fundamental behavior of stem cells, including their survival, biodistribution, immunogenicity, and tumorigenicity in the targeted tissues of interest. This review summarizes various molecular imaging technologies and how they have advanced the current understanding of stem cell survival, biodistribution, immunogenicity, and tumorigenicity.

Keywords: molecular imaging, stem cell therapy, survival, biodistribution, immunogenicity, tumorigenicity

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How to cite this article:
Gu E, Chen WY, Gu J, Burridge P, Wu JC. Molecular Imaging of Stem Cells: Tracking Survival, Biodistribution, Tumorigenicity, and Immunogenicity. Theranostics 2012; 2(4):335-345. doi:10.7150/thno.3666. Available from