Prof. B. Neumaier: Molecular Imaging (Max Planck Institut für neurologische Forschung, Radiochemistry, Forschungszentrum Jülich)

Molecular imaging allows the visualization of different physiological or pathophysiological
processes at the molecular level with high resolution and extraordinary sensitivity. This detection
requires the preparation of molecular probes that enable the non-invasive detection of small
molecular alterations in preclinical models. The molecular imaging probes are injected into the
animal model and interact specifically with its molecular target and specifically display the
expression of, e.g. enzymes or receptor systems. A molecular imaging probe typically comprises
a signal agent, a targeting moiety, and a linker connecting the targeting moiety and the signal
agent. The signal agent usually produces signal for that subsequently allow imaging. A PET
imaging probe requires a positron-emitting radionuclide as the label. The signal agent is a
radionuclide produced at a cyclotron. These PET nuclides are then incorporated via labeling
chemistry into biomolecules suitable for PET imaging. After tracer development, the novel imaging probes can be evaluated in preclinical settings. After successful biological evaluation, the
probe is produced on a preparative scale using automation processes.
For the whole process, i.e. target identification, probe design, radiolabeling, preclinical evaluation,
and automation, the following infrastructure is required and provided:
1) Cyclotron: Radionuclide production in cooperation with Forschungszentrum Jülich.
2) Radiochemistry laboratories: Radiochemical developments to prepare imaging agents.
3) Small animal imaging facility: Biological in vivo and in vitro evaluation of imaging probes.
4) Hot-cells and automated synthesis modules: For the production on a preparative scale,
leaded-shielded hot cells are required that enable us to handle high radioactivity amounts.