Non-invasive Reporter Gene Imaging of Cell Therapies, including T Cells and Stem Cells

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Cell therapies represent a rapidly emerging class of new therapeutics. They are intended and developed for the treatment of some of the most prevalent human diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and for regenerative medicine. Currently, they are largely developed without precise assessment of their in vivo distribution, efficacy, or survival either clinically or preclinically. However, it would be highly beneficial for both preclinical cell therapy development and subsequent clinical use to assess these parameters in situ to enable enhancements in efficacy, applicability, and safety. Molecular imaging can be exploited to track cells non-invasively on the whole-body level and can enable monitoring for prolonged periods in a manner compatible with rapidly expanding cell types. In this review, we explain how in vivo imaging can aid the development and clinical translation of cell-based therapeutics. We describe the underlying principles governing non-invasive in vivo long-term cell tracking in the preclinical and clinical settings, including available imaging technologies, reporter genes, and imaging agents as well as pitfalls related to experimental design. Our emphasis is on adoptively transferred T cell and stem cell therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1016/j.ymthe.2020.03.016
Pages (from-to)1392-1416
Number of pages25
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number6
Early online date20 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2020


  • adoptive cell therapy
  • cell tracking
  • immunotherapy
  • molecular imaging
  • prostate-specific membrane antigen
  • sodium iodide symporter


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