Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are emerging as a potential therapeutic intervention for brain injury due to their neuroprotective effects and safe profile. However, the homing ability of MSCs to injury sites still needs to be improved. Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 (FGF21) was recently reported to enhance cells migration in different cells type. In this study, we investigated whether MSCs that overexpressing FGF21 (MSC-FGF21) could exhibit enhanced homing efficacy in brain injury. We used novel Molday IONEverGreen™ (MIEG) as cell labeling probe that enables a non-invasive, high-sensitive and real-time MRI tracking. Using a mouse model of traumatic brain injury (TBI), MIEG labeled MSCs were transplanted into the contralateral lateral ventricle followed by real-time MRI tracking. FGF21 retained MSC abilities of proliferation and morphology. MSC-FGF21 showed significantly greater migration in transwell assay compared to control MSC. MIEG labeling showed no effects on MSCs’ viability, proliferation and differentiation. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed that FGF21 significantly enhances the homing of MSC toward injury site. Histological analysis further confirmed the MRI findings. Taken together, these results show that FGF21 overexpression and MIEG labeling of MSC enhances their homing abilities and enables non-invasive real time tracking of the transplanted cells, provides a promising approach for MSC based therapy and tracking in TBI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2624
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Cell homing
  • Cell therapy
  • Cell tracking
  • Fibroblast growth factor 21
  • Gene therapy
  • Mesenchymal stems cells
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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