Cell transplantation therapy has been expected to promote the recovery of neurological function after central nervous system (CNS) disorders, including cerebral infarcts. When considering the clinical application of cell transplantation therapy, it is quite important to establish a noninvasive technique to track the transplanted cells in order to longitudinally monitor the behavior of these cells.

Optical imaging (OI) has some advantages over other types of imaging for tracking transplanted cells, including low cost, rapid acquisition, no radiation toxicity, and relatively high sensitivity, although its spatial resolution and penetration depth are limited because of light scattering and absorption. Previously, we succeeded in visualizing green fluorescence protein (GFP)-labeled bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) transplanted into the brain in mice. However, because of its short wavelength, the green fluorescence, could be detected only through the skull [1].

Therefore, in this preliminary study we aimed to evaluate whether a near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence tracer with a much longer wavelength than GFP would be useful in the "noninvasive" tracking of donor cells transplanted into the brain. For this purpose, we labeled BMSCs with NIR-emitting quantum dots (QDs); these QDs have recently been investigated for use as fluorescent biological probes, because of their nanometer dimensions, attractive optical characteristics, high resistance to photo-bleaching, and their strong fluorescence [2, 3].

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