Martin Rodriguez-Porcel in conversation about molecular imaging of stem cells

Discussion |

Martin Rodriguez-Porcel in conversation about molecular imaging of stem cells

Carmel McNamara

Martin Rodriguez-Porcel, MD is a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA where his lab works to non-invasively study the biology of gene and cell therapies for cardiovascular applications using molecular imaging strategies. One of the focuses of research in his lab is the development and adaption of novel molecular imaging modalities – for example, optical imaging, positron emission tomography, and ultrasound – to better understand the biology of stem cells used for cardiovascular applications. Here, he discusses his newly revised chapter and the latest developmentsin this field, such as reporter gene imaging and optoacoustics.


What are the key takeaways from this review?

The main take home point is that there are many questions on how stem cells work and that is why it is critical that we track stem cells after delivery. By combining tracking of stem cells in vivo with functional assessment of the function of the organ under study, we will gain a better sense of the efficacy of these therapies. Also, that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to imaging, all depends on the research question posed.


In general, how do you feel the molecular imaging techniques in the field have changed in the last 10 years since the original chapter review was published in StemBook?

Since the first publication of this review, several advances have occurred. New modalities have appeared, for example, magnetic resonance reporter genes and optoacoustics, and there have been improvements in modalities that already existed (for example, fluorescence tomographic imaging).


What was your approach to writing the review for StemJournal? How did you decide which sections to focus on for the update?

As a clinician – I am a cardiologist – I always have the clinical application in mind. Thus, we focused on modalities that have a potential for clinical application, such as magnetic resonance (MI), positron emission tomography (PET), or single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), or can be adapted to clinically applicable modalities, for instance bioluminescence.


What have the significant advances been, and what do you see leading the way in the next 10 years?

I think that the modalities we have now will get better and new ones, like optoacoustics, will find their role in this field. In the next few years, we will be learning more and more about how cells work and what we can do to make them more efficacious as a therapeutic strategy.


How does the content of the paper(s) relate to your research, and what is your current/future focus in this field?

This field is the main area of interest in my laboratory. My focus is to try to understand what happens with stem cells after they are delivered, especially for cardiovascular applications. I expect to continue to work in this field in the next few years, as I am convinced that we need to work hard to advance these therapies. I have been fortunate to work with leaders in the field (Dr. Wu, Dr. Gambhir) and I want to put all the effort I can to advance knowledge in this field.


Anything else you’d like to share?

I am convinced that regenerative therapies have a role in health care and is up to us to find what it is. There are many questions remaining on the stem cell field, questions in which in vivo imaging will play a significant role in the future. We should not be discouraged by some of the results of stem cell studies. In fact, it further highlights the important role that imaging will play on this field as we go forward.


Thank you to Dr. Rodriguez-Porcel for answering our questions. The revised StemBook chapter article can be viewed here (in the Tissue Engineering chapter) and the co-published review article in StemJournal is here.

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