Cell therapy is a promising strategy for the treatment of human diseases. While the first use of cells for therapeutic purposes can be traced to the 19th century, there has been a lack of general and reliable methods to study the biodistribution and associated pharmacokinetics of transplanted cells in various animal models for preclinical evaluation. Here, we present a new platform using albumin-conjugated fluorescent nanodiamonds (FNDs) as biocompatible and photostable labels for quantitative tracking of human placenta choriodecidual membrane-derived mesenchymal stem cells (pcMSCs) in miniature pigs by magnetic modulation. With this background-free detection technique and time-gated fluorescence imaging, we have been able to precisely determine the numbers as well as positions of the transplanted FND-labeled pcMSCs in organs and tissues of the miniature pigs after intravenous administration. The method is applicable to single-cell imaging and quantitative tracking of human stem/progenitor cells in rodents and other animal models as well.
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