Ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging to monitor stem cells for tissue regeneration
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Regenerative medicine is an interdisciplinary field which has advanced with the use of biotechnologies related to biomaterials, growth factors, and stem cells to replace or restore damaged cells, tissues, and organs. Among various therapeutic approaches, cell-based therapy is most challenging and exciting for both scientists and clinicians pursuing regenerative medicine. Specifically, stem cells, including mesenchymal stem cells and adipose-derived stem cells, are promising candidate cell types for cell-based therapy because they can differentiate into multiple cell types for tissue regeneration and stimulate other cells through neovascularization or paracrine signaling. Also, for effective treatment using stem cells, the tissue engineered constructs, such as bioactive degradable scaffolds, that provide the physical and chemical cues to guide their differentiation are incorporated with stem cells before implantation. Also, it was previously demonstrated that tissue-engineered matrices can promote tubulogenesis and differentiation of stem cells to vascular cell phenotypes. Hence, during tissue regeneration after stem cell therapy, there are numerous factors that need to be monitored. As a result, imaging-based stem cell tracking is essential to evaluate the distribution of stem cells as well as to monitor proliferation, differentiation, and interaction with the microenvironment. Therefore, there is a need for a stem cell imaging technique that is not only noninvasive, sensitive, and easy to operate, but also capable of quantitatively assessing stem cell behaviors in the long term with high spatial resolution. Therefore, the overall goal of this research is to demonstrate a novel imaging method capable of continuous in vitro assessment of stem cells as prepared with tissue engineered constructs and noninvasive longitudinal in vivo monitoring of stem cell behaviors and tissue regeneration after stem cell implantation. In order to accomplish this, gold nanoparticles are demonstrated as photoacoustic imaging contrasts to label stem cells. In addition, ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging was utilized to monitor stem cells and neovascularization in the injured rat tissue. Therefore, using these methods, tissue regeneration can be promoted and noninvasively monitored, resulting in a better understanding of the tissue repair mechanisms following tissue injury.