European Radiology

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 910–920 | Cite as

Molecular magnetic resonance imaging of atherosclerotic vessel wall disease

  • Dominik Nörenberg
  • Hans U. Ebersberger
  • Gerd Diederichs
  • Bernd Hamm
  • René M. Botnar
  • Marcus R. Makowski
Molecular Imaging


Molecular imaging aims to improve the identification and characterization of pathological processes in vivo by visualizing the underlying biological mechanisms. Molecular imaging techniques are increasingly used to assess vascular inflammation, remodeling, cell migration, angioneogenesis and apoptosis. In cardiovascular diseases, molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers new insights into the in vivo biology of pathological vessel wall processes of the coronary and carotid arteries and the aorta. This includes detection of early vascular changes preceding plaque development, visualization of unstable plaques and assessment of response to therapy. The current review focuses on recent developments in the field of molecular MRI to characterise different stages of atherosclerotic vessel wall disease. A variety of molecular MR-probes have been developed to improve the non-invasive detection and characterization of atherosclerotic plaques. Specifically targeted molecular probes allow for the visualization of key biological steps in the cascade leading to the development of arterial vessel wall lesions. Early detection of processes which lead to the development of atherosclerosis and the identification of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques may enable the early assessment of response to therapy, improve therapy planning, foster the prevention of cardiovascular events and may open the door for the development of patient-specific treatment strategies.

Key Points

Targeted MR-probes allow the characterization of atherosclerosis on a molecular level.

Molecular MRI can identify in vivo markers for the differentiation of stable and unstable plaques.

Visualization of early molecular changes has the potential to improve patient-individualized risk-assessment.


Molecular imaging Magnetic resonance imaging Atherosclerotic vessel wall disease MRI contrast agents Cardiovascular disease 



The scientific guarantor of this publication is D. Noerenberg.

The authors (B.H.) of this manuscript declare relationships with the following companies:

Abbott, Actelion Pharmaceuticals, Bayer Schering Pharma, Bayer Vital, BRACCO Group, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chante research organisation GmbH, Deutsche Krebshilfe, Dt. Stiftung für Herzforschung, Essex Pharma, EU Programmes, Fibrex Medical Inc., Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft,Guerbet, INC Research, lnSightec Ud., IPSEN Pharma, Kendlel MorphoSys AG, Lilly GmbH, Lundbeck GmbH, MeVis Medical Solutions AG, Nexus Oncology, Novartis, Parexel CRO Service, Perceptive, Pfizer GmbH, Philipps, sanofis-aventis S.A, Siemens, Spectranetics GmbH, Terumo Medical Corporation, TNS Healthcare GMbH, Toshiba, UCB Pharma, Wyeth Pharma, Zukunftsfond Berlin (TSB), Amgen, AO Foundation, BARD, BBraun (Sponsoring eines Workshops), Boehring Ingelheimer, Brainsgate, PPD (CRO), CELLACT Pharma, Celgene, CeloNova BioSciences, Covance, DC Devices, Inc. USA, Ganymed, Gilead Sciences, Glaxo Smith Kline, ICON (CRO), Jansen, LUX Biosciences, MedPass (CRO), Merck, Mologen, Nuvisan, Pluristem, Quintiles (CRO), Roche, Schumacher GmbH (Sponsoring eines Workshops), Seattle Genetics, Symphogen, TauRx Therapeutics Ud,, Accovion, AIO: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Internistische Onkologie, ASR Advanced sleep research, Astellas, Theradex, Galena Biopharma, Chiltern, PRAint, lnspiremd, Medronic, Respicardia, Silena Therapeutics, Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, St, Jude Medical, TEVA, Theorem, abbvie, Aesculap, biotronik, Inventivhealth, ISA Therapeutics, LYSARC, MSD, novocure, Ockham oncology, Premier-research, psi-cro, tetec-ag, winicker-norimed.

The authors state that this work has not received any funding. No complex statistical methods were necessary for this paper. Institutional Review Board approval was not required. Methodology: retrospective/review article.

Supplementary material

330_2015_3881_MOESM1_ESM.docx (908 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1 (DOCX 800 kb)
330_2015_3881_MOESM2_ESM.docx (159 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (DOCX 73 kb)


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Copyright information

© European Society of Radiology 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of RadiologyCharité – University Medicine BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Cardiology and Intensive Care MedicineHeart Center Munich-BogenhausenMunichGermany
  3. 3.Division of Imaging Sciences and Biomedical EngineeringKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Department of Clinical RadiologyUniversity of Munich – GrosshadernMunichGermany

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