Molecular imaging of disease development, progression and treatment is seen as key to further advancement in the understanding and triumph over illness. The role of enzymes is to catalyze the biochemical reactions that help regulate health, and when dysregulated in complex organisms lead to or indicate disease. The ability to image the action of these proteins for diagnostic purposes opens a window for the researcher and clinician to witness specifc molecular events in vitro and in vivo. Such probes have been developed and deployed for the optical, radionuclide and magnetic resonance modalities and offer significant benefits over conventional agents. The signal of enzymatically-activated probes is regulated by the specific activity of the desired enzyme. This allows for a higher signal to background ratio over non-specific and targeted agents. It also enables the modulation of contrast agent distribution (and even cellular accumulation) following enzymatic activity. This review summarizes the strategies and probes in development and use in this emergent field of molecular imaging, with a particular focus on the research and medical relevance of these advances.
Keywords: Molecular specificity, multimodality, nanoparticles, signal to noise, complex organisms, conventional agents, anatomical information, potential goals, Small organic molecules, amino acid, monosaccharide building blocks, biochemical reactions, matrix metalloproteases, cyanine (Cy), nanometers
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