Evaluation of Human Skin-Derived Stem Cell Characteristics After Non-Invasive Quantum Dot Labeling
Background/Aims: The use of skin-derived stem cells and stem cells of other origins in regenerative medicine requires knowledge of stem cell fate after transplantation. In order to achieve non-invasive long-term imaging and tracking of transplanted stem cells in preclinical studies, a non-toxic, efficient labeling technique that does not alter stem cell characteristics must be used. Our aim was to investigate a method for such a long-term cell-compatible cell tracer using nanoparticles. Methods: Nanotechnology, in particular the use of quantum dots (QDs), offers great advantages for this crucial requirement. In this study, we used nanocrystals coated with a specific target peptide that enables delivery into the cytoplasm of cells, resulting in an intense and stable fluorescent labeling. We analyzed the influence of biocompatible CdSe/ZnS-QDs on epidermal stem cells (EpiSCs) isolated from adult human skin. Thereby we analyzed on QD loading, cell proliferation including QD transfer to descendent daughter cells as well as the influence on the differentiation potential of stem cells after QD labeling. Results: FACS analysis revealed a dose-dependent QD incorporation into the cells. Thereby, a high initial concentration of nanocrystals resulted in a more stable long-term labeling. QD labeled cells showed normal viability and unchanged ability to proliferate. The spread of QDs during cell division was monitored by time lapse microscopy and two modes of QD distribution could be observed. Daughter cells either received an equal amount of QDs after cell division, which led to a homogenously faded fluorescence signal, or there was an uneven transmission of QDs, which led to unchanged labeling of one cell and a complete loss of the fluorescence signal of the other cell. The spontaneous differentiation potential remained unaffected after QD exposure, since skin-derived EpiSCs showed an unchanged protein and gene expression profile. Conclusion: In summary, we can conclude that QDs offer a successful, non-invasive and efficient labeling technique for EpiSCs, which makes their in vitro and in vivo use in skin regeneration and wound healing models traceable. Nevertheless, the uneven transmission of QDs should not be disregarded and the extent and frequency should be investigated in further studies.