Imaging of angiogenesis: from microscope to clinic

Nat Med. 2003 Jun;9(6):713-25. doi: 10.1038/nm0603-713.


Advances in imaging are transforming our understanding of angiogenesis and the evaluation of drugs that stimulate or inhibit angiogenesis in preclinical models and human disease. Vascular imaging makes it possible to quantify the number and spacing of blood vessels, measure blood flow and vascular permeability, and analyze cellular and molecular abnormalities in blood vessel walls. Microscopic methods ranging from fluorescence, confocal and multiphoton microscopy to electron microscopic imaging are particularly useful for elucidating structural and functional abnormalities of angiogenic blood vessels. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET), ultrasonography and optical imaging provide noninvasive, functionally relevant images of angiogenesis in animals and humans. An ongoing dilemma is, however, that microscopic methods provide their highest resolution on preserved tissue specimens, whereas clinical methods give images of living tissues deep within the body but at much lower resolution and specificity and generally cannot resolve vessels of the microcirculation. Future challenges include developing new imaging methods that can bridge this resolution gap and specifically identify angiogenic vessels. Another goal is to determine which microscopic techniques are the best benchmarks for interpreting clinical images. The importance of angiogenesis in cancer, chronic inflammatory diseases, age-related macular degeneration and reversal of ischemic heart and limb disease provides incentive for meeting these challenges.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Vessels / anatomy & histology*
  • Blood Vessels / physiology*
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic*
  • Permeability


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Biomarkers