In vivo molecular and genomic imaging: new challenges for imaging physics

Phys Med Biol. 2004 Feb 7;49(3):R13-48. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/49/3/r01.


The emerging and rapidly growing field of molecular and genomic imaging is providing new opportunities to directly visualize the biology of living organisms. By combining our growing knowledge regarding the role of specific genes and proteins in human health and disease, with novel ways to target these entities in a manner that produces an externally detectable signal, it is becoming increasingly possible to visualize and quantify specific biological processes in a non-invasive manner. All the major imaging modalities are contributing to this new field, each with its unique mechanisms for generating contrast and trade-offs in spatial resolution, temporal resolution and sensitivity with respect to the biological process of interest. Much of the development in molecular imaging is currently being carried out in animal models of disease, but as the field matures and with the development of more individualized medicine and the molecular targeting of new therapeutics, clinical translation is inevitable and will likely forever change our approach to diagnostic imaging. This review provides an introduction to the field of molecular imaging for readers who are not experts in the biological sciences and discusses the opportunities to apply a broad range of imaging technologies to better understand the biology of human health and disease. It also provides a brief review of the imaging technology (particularly for x-ray, nuclear and optical imaging) that is being developed to support this new field.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / trends*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Genetic Markers*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Genomics / trends*
  • Health Physics / methods
  • Health Physics / trends
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / trends
  • Molecular Biology / methods*
  • Nuclear Physics / methods
  • Nuclear Physics / trends
  • Proteome / metabolism*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / trends
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / trends
  • Ultrasonography / methods
  • Ultrasonography / trends


  • Genetic Markers
  • Proteome