Theranostics 2015; 5(6):559-582. doi:10.7150/thno.11548 This issue


Molecular Imaging of Apoptosis: From Micro to Macro

Wenbin Zeng1✉, Xiaobo Wang1, Pengfei Xu1, Gang Liu2, Henry S. Eden3, Xiaoyuan Chen3✉

1. School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Molecular Imaging Research Centre, Central South University, Changsha, 410013, China;
2. Centre for Molecular Imaging and Translational Medicine, State Key Laboratory of Molecular Vaccinology and Molecular Diagnostics, School of Public Health, Xiamen University, Xiamen, 361102, China.
3. Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892, USA.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) License. See for full terms and conditions.
Zeng W, Wang X, Xu P, Liu G, Eden HS, Chen X. Molecular Imaging of Apoptosis: From Micro to Macro. Theranostics 2015; 5(6):559-582. doi:10.7150/thno.11548. Available from

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Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is involved in numerous human conditions including neurodegenerative diseases, ischemic damage, autoimmune disorders and many types of cancer, and is often confused with other types of cell death. Therefore strategies that enable visualized detection of apoptosis would be of enormous benefit in the clinic for diagnosis, patient management, and development of new therapies. In recent years, improved understanding of the apoptotic machinery and progress in imaging modalities have provided opportunities for researchers to formulate microscopic and macroscopic imaging strategies based on well-defined molecular markers and/or physiological features. Correspondingly, a large collection of apoptosis imaging probes and approaches have been documented in preclinical and clinical studies. In this review, we mainly discuss microscopic imaging assays and macroscopic imaging probes, ranging in complexity from simple attachments of reporter moieties to proteins that interact with apoptotic biomarkers, to rationally designed probes that target biochemical changes. Their clinical translation will also be our focus.

Keywords: Apoptosis, Microscopic imaging assays, Macroscopic imaging probes, Clinical translation.