Author(s): Cai W
Successful reprogramming of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) ushered in a new era of regenerative medicine. Human iPSCs provide powerful new approaches for disease modeling, drug testing, developmental studies, and therapeutic applications. Investigating iPSC behavior in vivo and the ultimate feasibility of cell transplantation therapy necessitates the development of novel imaging techniques to longitudinally monitor iPSC localization, proliferation, integration, and differentiation in living subjects. At this five year mark of initial iPSC discovery, we review the current status of imaging iPSCs which ranges from in vitro studies, where imaging was used to study the processes/mechanisms of cellular reprogramming, to in vivo imaging of the survival of transplanted cells. To date, most imaging studies of iPSCs have been based on optical techniques, which include fluorescence and bioluminescence imaging. Since each imaging technique has its advantages and limitations, a combination of multiple imaging modalities may provide complementary information. The ideal imaging approach for tracking iPSCs or their derivatives in patients requires the imaging tag to be non-toxic, biocompatible, and highly specific to reduce perturbation of these cells. In few other scenarios can "personalized medicine" be better illustrated than the use of individual patient-specific iPSCs. Much future effort will be required before this can become a reality and clinical routine, where imaging will play an indispensible role in many facets of iPSC-based research and therapies.