Protamine Functionalized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes for Stem Cell Labeling and In Vivo Raman/Magnetic Resonance/Photoacoustic Triple-Modal Imaging
Chao Wang, Xinxing Ma, Shuoqi Ye, Liang Cheng, Kai Yang, Liang Guo, Changhui Li, Yonggang Li,* and Zhuang Liu*
Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Carbon-Based Functional Materials & Devices Institute of Functional Nano & Soft Materials Laboratory (FUNSOM)Soochow UniversitySuzhou, Jiangsu 215123, China
Department of Radiologythe First Affi liated Hospital of Soochow UniversitySuzhou, Jiangsu, 215006, China
Department of Biomedical EngineeringCollege of EngineeringPeking UniversityBeijing, 100871, China
Stem cells have shown great potential in regenerative medicine and attracted tremendous interests in recent years. Sensitive and reliable methods for stem cell labeling and in vivo tracking are thus urgently needed. Here, a novel approach to label human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) for in vivo tracking by triple-modal imaging is presented. It is shown that polyethylene glycol (PEG) functionalized SWNTs conjugated with protamine (SWNT-PEG-PRO) exhibit extremely efficient cell entry into hMSCs, without affecting their proliferation and differentiation. The strong inherent resonance Raman scattering of SWNTs is used for in vitro and in vivo Raman imaging of SWNT-PEG-PRO-labeled hMSCs, enabling ultrasensitive in vivo detection of as few as 500 stem cells administrated into mice. On the other hand, the metallic catalyst nanoparticles attached on nanotubes can be utilized as the T2-contrast agent in magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of SWNT-labeled hMSCs. Moreover, in vivo photoacoustic imaging of hMSCs in mice is also demonstrated. The work reveals that SWNTs with appropriate surface functionalization have the potential to serve as multifunctional nanoprobes for stem cell labeling and multi-modal in vivo tracking.