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Molecular imaging, as applied to clinical practice today, is in its early stages. Encouraging advances achieved in clinical positron emission tomography (PET) and small-animal imaging indicate that this technique is evolving into an indispensable diagnostic tool. When employed with complementary morphological imaging procedures, molecular imaging results in substantial diagnostic capability. It will enable the physician to unveil topographic biochemistry in situ and reduce invasive testing. While this is at least in part futuristic, it is clear already today that a comprehensive set of imaging modalities will be required. Imaging modalities most appropriate for molecular imaging are PET, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), optical imaging, and ultrasound. The foundation for advances in molecular imaging, however, is not primarily imaging hardware development but scientific advancements in molecular biology and progress in probe development. Other factors to consider are postprocessing software and, inevitably, market dynamics. Thus. it implies efficient collaborations across disciplines, agencies, and industries to develop molecular imaging tools for the clinic.
Date of Publication: April 2005