Molecular imaging: a prophetic means to investigate disease

Medical researchers have long been fascinated by the possibility of studying molecular pathways inside a human being, in real time. This is now possible thanks to the new biomedical technology of molecular imaging.
The technology has its roots in nuclear medicine but also draws heavily on disciplines like molecular biology and cellular chemistry, medical physics, pharmacology and bioinformatics as well as traditional imaging techniques.

Deploying early warning weapons
Molecular imaging allows for the non-invasive visualization, characterization and quantification of cellular/sub-cellular targets and pathways in living subjects. Most distinctively, it allows for biological processes to be investigated and calibrated within their own environment, rather than through in-vitro or ex-vivo cell cultures in the laboratory.
As compared to more conventional imaging techniques, which are  based on measuring differences in target density, molecular imaging uses biomarker probes to produce chemical reactions/molecular changes in the target area, and thereby alter the image.
By studying the cells of a living subject in order to determine abnormalities which form the basis of disease, the proponents of molecular imaging say it can be deployed as a far more effective weapon than traditional imaging/pathology techniques for assessment, risk profiling, evaluation and follow-up. The latter are constrained to focus on the end- or late-stage effects of molecular alterations.

A door to personalized medical care

In effect, molecular imaging allows for diagnosis of major diseases, before the onset of traditional symptoms. It is therefore expected to have a major economic impact due to savings on the burden of managing and treating a disease at a later, more advanced stage.
Molecular imaging also opens the door to personalized medical care, by revealing the specific clinical biology of the disease process in a particular patient. This is especially relevant for major cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis, thrombosis, ischemia and heart failure or transplant rejection. Molecular imaging holds invaluable potential in the fight against cancers, by being able to precisely diagnose and stage tumours, assess and monitor therapies and provide extremely accurate prognoses. It also promises to become a front-line weapon in the battle against degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer