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Now, Stem Cells Injected into Brain Can Be Tracked!

Ever wondered how the stem cells start their journey and travel inside our bodies once they enter into it? A team of researchers headed by Dr. Taku Sugiyama from Hokkaido University, Japan, have come up with a new technique through which the behavior of injected stem cells in brain diseases such as stroke can be known.

This promising new technique uses “quantum dots”, a biocompatible, fluorescent semiconductor that was developed using nanotechnology.

Sugiyama’s team has succeeded in using “near-infrared fluorescence labeling” that helped in tracking the path and behavior of stem cells in brain-injured rats.

Rat models in the experiment were induced with brain injuries, similar to stroke. Bone marrow stem cells derived from these rats were used in treating them. Before injecting them into rat brains, these stem cells were labeled with “quantum dots”.

Unlike other fluorescence techniques, quantum dots can easily penetrate through skin and bone because of their capacity to emit near infra-red light, with longer wavelengths (penetrate tissues with much ease).

Fluorescence techniques currently in use to label and detect stem cells have short wavelengths that cannot penetrate through skin and bone.

A computer assisted 3D imaging system was used in monitoring the stem cell behavior after transplantation. Researchers did not have difficulty in detecting the near-infrared fluorescence emitted from stem cells as they made their way to the injured part of the brain and incorporated themselves.

Fluorescence increased gradually and reached the peak level during the fourth week after injection indicating the behavior of stem cells. Also, they could detect the fluorescence for eight weeks.

According to Sugiyama, the positive results obtained in rats build a new hope among scientists to develop a non-invasive (not piercing the body as in a surgery) near-infrared fluorescence imaging technique that can help in tracking bone marrow stem cells injected into patients with brain disorders.

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