Innovative strategies in in vivo apoptosis imaging

Curr Med Chem. 2008;15(2):187-94. doi: 10.2174/092986708783330647.


Apoptosis (programmed cell death) plays a key role in the pathogenesis of many disorders including cerebral and myocardial ischemia, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, infections, organ and bone marrow transplant rejection, and tumor response to chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. Apoptosis in itself represents a complex mechanism where numerous (pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic) molecules interact in an elaborate manner. Since the original description by Kerr et al. in 1972, clinical assessment of apoptosis has always required biopsies or aspirated material for in vitro investigations. Several well-established methods are available for in vitro tests using tissue specimens. However, a non-invasive detection of apoptosis would be of great benefit for many patients in various situations. Today, non-invasive techniques for direct in vivo detection of apoptotic cells are rare and urgently need improvement. The early in vivo detection of apoptotic cells can provide the physician with important information to develop further therapeutic strategies in chemotherapy or radiotherapy of tumors, in transplantation of organs, or in healing of infarct areas. In some preliminary publications, several authors reported on the in vivo use of caspase-inhibitors and annexin V, labeled with indium-111, technetium-99m, iodine-123, iodine-124 or fluoride-18. In the present paper, we review the current applicability of both techniques for in vivo apoptosis imaging, and discuss the methodical problems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Annexin A5 / chemistry
  • Annexin A5 / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / metabolism
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*


  • Annexin A5
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Caspases