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About the AIRC

Molecular Imaging

Molecular imaging is a branch of medical imaging science that aims to detect, localize and monitor critical molecular processes in cells, tissue, and living organisms using highly sensitive instrumentation and contrast mechanisms. There are several different modalities that can be used for noninvasive molecular imaging including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), optical imaging, ultrasound, and the nuclear medicine methods, positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). The primary areas of research activity in molecular imaging at the AIRC include MRI, PET and SPECT.

A gadolinium complex that senses release of Zn2+ from the pancreas is under development for imaging beta cell function. The MRI of a mouse shown here illustrates how the pancreas of a mouse "lights up" in response to injection of a bolus of glucose.





Detecting tumors in vivo with targeted imaging agents.The PET/CT image to the left shows a mouse after injection of 64CuDOTA-(cRGD)2 for detection of avb3 –integrin receptors in tumors. The monomeric form of agent containing only one cRGD peptide has a much lower affinity and does not highlight the tumor.


Acid generation is a fundamental property of normal metabolism and a hallmark of the hyper-metabolic state characteristic of tumors. Scientists at the AIRC are developing novel sensors for imaging tissue pH by MRI and are applying these in animal models of disease. The molecular image on the right shows the normal pH gradient in a well-functioning mouse kidney with a molecular sensor on board.