Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are a renewable source of differentiated cell types that may be employed in various tissue regeneration strategies. However, clinical implementation of cell transplantation therapy is hindered by legitimate concerns regarding the in vivo teratoma formation of undifferentiated hESCs and host immune reactions to allogenic cells. Investigating in vivo hESC behaviour and the ultimate feasibility of cell transplantation therapy necessitates the development of novel molecular imaging techniques to longitudinally monitor hESC localization, proliferation, and viability in living subjects. An innovative approach to harness the respective strengths of various imaging platforms is the creation and use of a fusion reporter construct composed of red fluorescent protein (RFP), firefly luciferase (fluc), and herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSV-tk). The imaging modalities made available by use of this construct, including optical fluorescence, bioluminescence, and positron emission tomography (PET), mat be adapted to investigate a variety of physiological phenomena, including the spatio-temporal kinetics of hESC engraftment and proliferation in living subjects. This chapter describes the applications of reporter gene imaging to accelerate basic science research and clinical studies involving hESCs through (1) isolation of a homogenous hESC population, (2) noninvasive, longitudinal tracking of the location and proliferation of hESCs administered to a living subject, and (3) ablation of the hESC graft in the event of cellular misbehavior.
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