Theranostics 2020; 10(4):1923-1947. doi:10.7150/thno.39915 This issue


Nanoparticle-based Cell Trackers for Biomedical Applications

Jen-Shyang Ni1,2#, Yaxi Li1,3#, Wentong Yue1, Bin Liu4✉, Kai Li1✉

1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, Guangdong 518055, China
2. HKUST-Shenzhen Research Institute, Shenzhen 518057, China
3. School of Life Science and Technology, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150080, China
4. Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore
#These authors contribute equally.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Ni JS, Li Y, Yue W, Liu B, Li K. Nanoparticle-based Cell Trackers for Biomedical Applications. Theranostics 2020; 10(4):1923-1947. doi:10.7150/thno.39915. Available from

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Graphic abstract

The continuous or real-time tracking of biological processes using biocompatible contrast agents over a certain period of time is vital for precise diagnosis and treatment, such as monitoring tissue regeneration after stem cell transplantation, understanding the genesis, development, invasion and metastasis of cancer and so on. The rationally designed nanoparticles, including aggregation-induced emission (AIE) dots, inorganic quantum dots (QDs), nanodiamonds, superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs), and semiconducting polymer nanoparticles (SPNs), have been explored to meet this urgent need. In this review, the development and application of these nanoparticle-based cell trackers for a variety of imaging technologies, including fluorescence imaging, photoacoustic imaging, magnetic resonance imaging, magnetic particle imaging, positron emission tomography and single photon emission computing tomography are discussed in detail. Moreover, the further therapeutic treatments using multi-functional trackers endowed with photodynamic and photothermal modalities are also introduced to provide a comprehensive perspective in this promising research field.

Keywords: aggregation-induced emission, bioimaging, cell tracking, semiconducting polymer, therapy