While faster-than-light travel is the stuff of science fiction, it might be the next big thing for medical imaging.

 A new study, published in the July issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine (JNM) (http://jnm.snmjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/51/7/1123) reports that a novel optical imaging technique, Cerenkov luminescence imaging (CLI), may lead to faster and more cost-effective development of radiopharmaceuticals for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other conditions.

Optical imaging is a molecular imaging procedure in which light-producing molecules designed to attach to specific cells or molecules are injected into the bloodstream and then are detected by an optical imaging device. Cerenkov radiation is produced when a particle moves faster than light, creating a “shock wave” that emits a visible blue light. Since Cerenkov imaging produces light from radioactivity, no external illumination is necessary.

During the study, researchers evaluated several radionuclides for potential use with CLI. CLI and PET were used to visualize tumor-bearing mice. The results showed that CLI visualizes radiotracer uptake in vivo. The resulting decrease of light over time correlates with the radioactive decay of the injected tracer. According to a press release from the JNM, an added value of this technique is its ability to image radionuclides that do not emit either positrons or gamma rays; a current limitation for nuclear imaging modalities, which means that a whole host of new isotopes could be introduced thanks to CLI. In addition, CLI shows promise for endoscopy and surgery, because of the ability to visualize tumor lesions, which could provide real-time information to surgeons and help guide operations.


(Source: Press Release and Abstract)