Cerenkov radiation allows in vivo optical imaging of positron emitting radiotracers

Phys Med Biol. 2010 Jan 21;55(2):483-95. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/55/2/010. Epub 2009 Dec 21.


In this paper, we showed that Cerenkov radiation (CR) escaping from the surface of small living animals injected with (18)F-FDG can be detected with optical imaging techniques. (18)F decays by emitting positrons with a maximum energy of 0.635 MeV; such positrons, when travelling into tissues faster than the speed of light in the same medium, are responsible of CR emission. A detailed model of the CR spectrum considering the positron energy spectrum was developed in order to quantify the amount of light emission. The results presented in this work were obtained using a commercial optical imager equipped with charged coupled detectors (CCD). Our data open the door to optical imaging (OI) in vivo of the glucose metabolism, at least in pre-clinical research. We found that the heart and bladder can be clearly identified in the animal body reflecting the accumulation of the (18)F-FDG. Moreover, we describe two different methods based on the spectral analysis of the CR that can be used to estimate the depth of the source inside the animal. We conclude that (18)F-FDG can be employed as it is as a bimodal tracer for positron emission tomography (PET) and OI techniques. Our results are encouraging, suggesting that it could be possible to apply the proposed approach not only to beta(+) but also to pure beta(-) emitters.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Heart / diagnostic imaging
  • Light
  • Linear Models
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Models, Biological
  • Optics and Photonics / instrumentation
  • Optics and Photonics / methods*
  • Radiation*
  • Radionuclide Imaging / instrumentation
  • Radionuclide Imaging / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Urinary Bladder / diagnostic imaging


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18