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Molecular imaging: the future for diagnosis and treatment?

(Vienna, 19 April 2011) Molecular imaging provides detailed results with the visual representation of a disease. This means “tailor-made” and, consequently, more effective forms of therapy are possible for patients. The new procedure is still in the initial stage of development however. Together with experts from Europe and the USA Peter Brader from the Department of Radiology at MedUni Vienna has now examined for the first time the different aspects of this new field of research with regard to paediatric radiology in a special edition of the specialist magazine “Pediatric Radiology”.

The imaging of diseases in the human body gives huge advantages when assessing the illness. As well as X-rays, computer and magnetic resonance tomography are predominant today. With molecular imaging a new field has now been entered in this area which can also depict biological processes within the disease. From this, experts are expecting significant progress in diagnosis, therapy and the monitoring of treatment.

Tailor-made diagnosis and therapy for patients
At the centre of the new procedure are special contrast agents which can cause a reaction only on certain receptors of the cells. This means a specific process can be examined depending on the contrast agent which is used. The big advantage of this procedure is therefore that not only are the position and spread of a disease depicted precisely – the underlying processes are at the same time too.

With tumours, for example, it can be seen whether and where precisely the cells are continuing to grow or dying off, so it can be seen how the treatment is working and to what extent. This means therapy measures can be adapted individually for the particular patients. This in turn increases efficiency and reduces unnecessary side effects.

This is particularly important in children because they have special molecular patterns. In diseases during childhood the receptors can therefore be “controlled” even more precisely than in adults. This gives accurate results on the disease process.

With the new imaging method, experts are also generally hoping to gain a better understanding of the origin of diseases and their biological processes and pathogenic effects. Initial preclinical research results back up this expectation.

Currently work is being done to include these successful research findings in routine clinical practice. First and foremost the required substances such as tracers and contrast agents have to be approved here.

MedUni Vienna in leading position
The Medical University of Vienna will have a leading position worldwide here. With the “Small Animal Image Lab”, which will soon be opened, MedUni Vienna is one of the few locations in the world where work is being done on this relatively new field of research. There are currently around ten comparable facilities in the world.

The current status of molecular imaging was recently summarised in the leading international specialist journal “Pediatric Radiology” under the supervision of Ass. Prof. Priv. Doz. Dr. Peter Brader from the research group of Univ. Prof. Dr. Thomas Helbich. Here the international “pioneers” in this field had their say, including the chairwoman of the most important professional association in this field, Prof. Dr. Hedvig Hricak from the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America).


Links: 
» Pediatric Radiology
» Medical Imaging Plattform