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Stem Cells International
Volume 2016, Article ID 6235687, 20 pages
Review Article

Increased Understanding of Stem Cell Behavior in Neurodegenerative and Neuromuscular Disorders by Use of Noninvasive Cell Imaging

1Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Department of Imaging and Pathology, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
2Department of Development and Regeneration, Kulak Kortrijk, Department of Paediatric Neurology, University Hospitals Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
3Translational Cardiomyology Lab, Department of Development and Regeneration, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
4Stem Cell Institute Leuven, Department of Development and Regeneration, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
5UZ Leuven, Division of Nuclear Medicine, Campus Gasthuisberg, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Received 25 September 2015; Revised 7 January 2016; Accepted 11 January 2016

Academic Editor: Christian Dani

Copyright © 2016 Bryan Holvoet et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Numerous neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders are associated with cell-specific depletion in the human body. This imbalance in tissue homeostasis is in healthy individuals repaired by the presence of endogenous stem cells that can replace the lost cell type. However, in most disorders, a genetic origin or limited presence or exhaustion of stem cells impairs correct cell replacement. During the last 30 years, methods to readily isolate and expand stem cells have been developed and this resulted in a major change in the regenerative medicine field as it generates sufficient amount of cells for human transplantation applications. Furthermore, stem cells have been shown to release cytokines with beneficial effects for several diseases. At present however, clinical stem cell transplantations studies are struggling to demonstrate clinical efficacy despite promising preclinical results. Therefore, to allow stem cell therapy to achieve its full potential, more insight in their in vivo behavior has to be achieved. Different methods to noninvasively monitor these cells have been developed and are discussed. In some cases, stem cell monitoring even reached the clinical setting. We anticipate that by further exploring these imaging possibilities and unraveling their in vivo behavior further improvement in stem cell transplantations will be achieved.