Emerging roles for integrated imaging modalities in cardiovascular cell-based therapeutics: a clinical perspective
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Despite preclinical promise, the progress of cell-based therapy to clinical cardiovascular practice has been slowed by several challenges and uncertainties that have been highlighted by the conflicting results of human trials. Most telling has been the revelation that current strategies fall short of achieving sufficient retention and engraftment of cells to meet the ambitious objective of myocardial regeneration. This has sparked novel research into the refinement of cell biology and delivery to overcome these shortcomings. Within this context, molecular imaging has emerged as a valuable tool for providing noninvasive surveillance of cell fate in vivo. Direct and indirect labelling of cells can be coupled with clinically relevant imaging modalities, such as radionuclide single photon emission computed tomography and positron emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging, to assess their short- and long-term distributions, along with their viability, proliferation and functional interaction with the host myocardium. This review details the strengths and limitations of the different cell labelling and imaging techniques and their potential application to the clinical realm. We also consider the broader, multifaceted utility of imaging throughout the cell therapy process, providing a discussion of its considerable value during cell delivery and its importance during the evaluation of cardiac outcomes in clinical studies.