Stem cell therapy ameliorates motor deficits in experimental stroke model. Multimodal molecular imaging enables real time longitudinal monitoring of infarct location, size and transplant survival. In the present study, we used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) to track the infarct evolution, tissue repair and the fate of grafted cells. We genetically engineered embryonic stem cell -derived neural stem cells (NSCs) with a triple fusion reporter gene to express monomeric red fluorescence protein and herpes simplex virus truncated thymidine kinase for multimodal molecular imaging and SPIO labeled for MRI. The infarct size, as well as fate and function of grafted cells were tracked in real time for 3 months using MRI and PET. We report that grafted NSCs reduced the infarct size in animals with less then 1 cm³ initial infarct in a dose-dependent manner, while larger stroke was not amenable to such beneficial effects. PET imaging revealed increased metabolic activity in grafted animals and visualized functioning grafted cells in vivo. Immunohistopathological analysis demonstrated that, after 3-month survival period grafted NSCs dispersed in the stroke-lesioned parenchyma and differentiated into neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. Longitudinal multimodal imaging provides insights into time course dose-dependant interactions between NSC grafts and structural changes in infracted tissue.
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