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Molecular & Metabolic Imaging

An Overview


Molecular Imaging is a newer discipline that unites molecular biology and in vivo imaging. It enables the visualisation of the cellular function and the follow-up of the molecular process in living organisms without perturbing them. The multiple and numerous potentialities of this field are applicable to the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer, and neurological and cardiovascular diseases. This technique also contributes to improving the treatment of these disorders by optimizing the pre-clinical and clinical tests of new medication. They are also expected to have a major economic impact due to earlier and more precise diagnosis. Molecular and Functional Imaging has taken on a new direction since the description of the human genome. New paths in fundamental research, as well as in applied and industrial research, render the task of scientists more complex and increase the demands on them. Therefore, a tailor-made teaching program is in order.


Molecular imaging differs from traditional imaging in that probes known as biomarkers are used to help image particular targets or pathways. Biomarkers interact chemically with their surroundings and in turn alter the image according to molecular changes occurring within the area of interest. This process is markedly different from previous methods of imaging which primarily imaged differences in qualities such as density or water content. This ability to image fine molecular changes opens up an incredible number of exciting possibilities for medical application, including early detection and treatment of disease and basic pharmaceutical development.


Many areas of research are being conducted in the field of molecular imaging. Much research is currently centered around detecting what is known as a predisease state or molecular states that occur before typical symptoms of a disease are detected. Other important veins of research are the imaging of gene expression and the development of novel biomarkers. Organizations such as the SNM Molecular Imaging Center of Excellence (MICE) have formed to support research in this field. In Europe, others Networks of Excellence as DiMI (Diagnostics in Molecular Imaging) or EMIL (European Molecular Imaging Laboratories) work on this new science integrating activities and research on the field. In this way, a European Master Programme “EMMI” is being set up in order to form the new generation of professionals in Molecular Imaging.


Recently the term “Molecular Imaging” has been applied to a variety of microscopy and nanoscopy techniques including live-cell microscopy, Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF)-microscopy, STimulated Emission Depletion (STED)-nanoscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) as here images of molecules are the readout.


Molecular & Metabolic Imaging Publication References

Fischman A, PET Imaging of Brain Tumors. Cancer Treatment & Research. 2008;143:67-92.


Shapiro EM, Sharer K, Skrtic S, Koretsky AP. In vivo detection of single cells by MRI.  Magn Reson Med. Feb 2006;55(2):242-9.


Pomper MG. Translational molecular imaging for cancer. Cancer Imaging. Nov 2005;23;5 Spec No A:S16-26.


Steel M., Molecular medicine: promises, promises? J. R. Soc. Med. 2005;98, 197-199, 2005.


Heckl S, Pipkorn R, Nägele T, Vogel U, Küker W, Voight K., Molecular imaging: Bridging the gap between neuroradiology and neurohistology.  Histol Histopathol. Apr 2004;19(2):651-68.


Massoud TF, Gambhir SS., Molecular imaging in living subjects: seeing fundamental biological processes in a new light. Genes Dev. Mr 2003;17(5):545-80.


Frost JJ., Molecular imaging of the brain: a historical perspective. Neuroimaging Clin N Am. Nov 2003;13(4):653-8.


Rudin M, Weissleder R., Molecular imaging in drug discovery and development. Nat Rev Drug Discov. Feb 2003;2(2):123-31.


Marsden PK, Strul D, Keevil SF, Williams SC, Cash D. Simultaneous PET and NMR. Br J Radiol. Nov 2002;75 Spec No:S53-9.


Weissleder, R., Mahmood, U., Molecular Imaging, Radiology. 2001; 219:316-333.


Phelps ME. PET: the merging of biology and imaging into molecular imaging.  J Nucl Med. Apr 2000;41(4):661-81.


Cohen D. Magnetoencephalography: evidence of magnetic fields produced by alpha rhythm currents. Science. 1968;161:784-6.

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