Molecular imaging of atherosclerosis in translational medicine

  • Pasquale Perrone-Filardi
  • Santo Dellegrottaglie
  • James H. F. Rudd
  • Pierluigi Costanzo
  • Caterina Marciano
  • Enrico Vassallo
  • Fabio Marsico
  • Donatella Ruggiero
  • Maria Piera Petretta
  • Massimo Chiariello
  • Alberto CuocoloEmail author
Review Article


Functional characterization of atherosclerosis is a promising application of molecular imaging. Radionuclide-based techniques for molecular imaging in the large arteries (e.g. aorta and carotids), along with ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have been studied both experimentally and in clinical studies. Technical factors including cardiac and respiratory motion, low spatial resolution and partial volume effects mean that noninvasive molecular imaging of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries is not ready for prime time. Positron emission tomography imaging with fluorodeoxyglucose can measure vascular inflammation in the large arteries with high reproducibility, and signal change in response to anti-inflammatory therapy has been described. MRI has proven of value for quantifying carotid artery inflammation when iron oxide nanoparticles are used as a contrast agent. Macrophage accumulation of the iron particles allows regression of inflammation to be measured with drug therapy. Similarly, contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging is also being evaluated for functional characterization of atherosclerotic plaques. For all of these techniques, however, large-scale clinical trials are mandatory to define the prognostic importance of the imaging signals in terms of risk of future vascular events.


Atherosclerosis Molecular imaging FDG PET MRI Ultrasound imaging 



Work described in this manuscript was part supported by Cambridge NIHR Biomedical Research Funding.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pasquale Perrone-Filardi
    • 1
  • Santo Dellegrottaglie
    • 1
    • 2
  • James H. F. Rudd
    • 3
  • Pierluigi Costanzo
    • 1
  • Caterina Marciano
    • 1
  • Enrico Vassallo
    • 1
  • Fabio Marsico
    • 1
  • Donatella Ruggiero
    • 1
  • Maria Piera Petretta
    • 1
  • Massimo Chiariello
    • 1
  • Alberto Cuocolo
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular and Immunological SciencesUniversity Federico IINaplesItaly
  2. 2.Z. and M.A. Wiener Cardiovascular Institute and M.-J. and H.R. Kravis Center for Cardiovascular HealthMount Sinai Medical CenterNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.School of Clinical MedicineUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  4. 4.Department of Biomorphological and Functional SciencesUniversity Federico IINaplesItaly
  5. 5.Institute of Diagnostic and Nuclear DevelopmentSDN FoundationNaplesItaly

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