Introduction: Molecular imaging strives to visualise processes at the molecular and cellular level in vivo. Understanding these processes supports diagnosis and evaluation of therapeutic efficacy on an individual basis and thereby makes personalised medicine possible.
Apoptosis and molecular imaging: Apoptosis is a well-organised mode of cell suicide that plays a role in cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Apoptosis is associated with loss of cardiomyocytes following myocardial infarction, atherosclerotic plaque instability, congestive heart failure and allograft rejection of the transplanted heart. Thus, apoptosis constitutes an attractive target for molecular imaging of CVD. Our current knowledge about the molecular players and mechanisms underlying apoptosis offers a rich palette of potential molecular targets for molecular imaging. However, only a few have been successfully developed so far.
Aims: This review highlights aspects of the molecular machinery and biochemistry of apoptosis relevant to the development of molecular imaging probes. It surveys the role of apoptosis in four major areas of CVD and portrays the importance and future perspectives of apoptosis imaging. The annexin A5 imaging protocol is emphasised since it is the most advanced protocol to measure apoptosis in both preclinical and clinical studies.