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Stem cells offer a promising approach to the treatment of myocardial infarction and prevention of heart failure. We have used iron labeling of bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) to noninvasively track cell location in the infarcted rat heart over 16 weeks using cine-magnetic resonance imaging (cine-MRI) and to isolate the BMSCs from the grafted hearts using the magnetic properties of the donor cells. BMSCs were isolated from rat bone marrow, characterized by flow cytometry, transduced with lentiviral vectors expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP), and labeled with iron particles. BMSCs were injected into the infarct periphery immediately following coronary artery ligation, and rat hearts were imaged at 1, 4, 10, and 16 weeks postinfarction. Signal voids caused by the iron particles in the BMSCs were detected in all rats at all time points. In mildly infarcted hearts, the volume of the signal void decreased over the 16 weeks, whereas the signal void volume did not decrease significantly in severely infarcted hearts. High-resolution three-dimensional magnetic resonance (MR) microscopy identified hypointense regions at the same position as in vivo. Donor cells containing iron particles and expressing GFP were identified in MR-targeted heart sections after magnetic cell separation from digested hearts. In conclusion, MRI can be used to track cells labeled with iron particles in damaged tissue for at least 16 weeks after injection and to guide tissue sectioning by accurately identifying regions of cell engraftment. The magnetic properties of the iron-labeled donor cells can be used for their isolation from host tissue to enable further characterization.

Original publication




Journal article


Stem Cells

Publication Date





1968 - 1975


Animals, Bone Marrow Cells, Cells, Cultured, Disease Models, Animal, Female, Graft Survival, Green Fluorescent Proteins, Heart, Iron, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cine, Myocardial Infarction, Myocardium, Particle Size, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Stroke Volume, Stromal Cells