Molecular imaging

Radiology. 2001 May;219(2):316-33. doi: 10.1148/radiology.219.2.r01ma19316.


The term molecular imaging can be broadly defined as the in vivo characterization and measurement of biologic processes at the cellular and molecular level. In contradistinction to "classical" diagnostic imaging, it sets forth to probe the molecular abnormalities that are the basis of disease rather than to image the end effects of these molecular alterations. While the underlying biology represents a new arena for many radiologists, concomitant efforts such as development of novel agents, signal amplification strategies, and imaging technologies clearly dovetail with prior research efforts of our specialty. Radiologists will play a leading role in directing developments of this embryonic but burgeoning field. This article presents some recent developments in molecular sciences and medicine and shows how imaging can be used, at least experimentally, to assess specific molecular targets. In the future, specific imaging of such targets will allow earlier detection and characterization of disease, earlier and direct molecular assessment of treatment effects, and a more fundamental understanding of the disease process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Genetic Markers*
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Microradiography
  • Molecular Biology*
  • Molecular Probe Techniques*
  • Radionuclide Imaging


  • Genetic Markers