Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a sophisticated nuclear imaging modality that affords researchers the ability to conduct both functional and molecular imaging on biological and biochemical processes in vivo. In functional imaging, biological parameters such as metabolic rate and perfusion that can be altered by disease or treatment are monitored. In molecular imaging, PET can be used to examine and quantify cellular events such as cell trafficking, receptor binding and gene expression. Therefore, PET is an important tool to elucidate mechanisms associated with diseases and drug actions. In addition to PET, microPET is designed to image small animals. A great tool to facilitate preclinical studies and basic research, it can eliminate the need of sacrificing the animal by enabling noninvasive, longitudinal, and serial studies. The results from preclinical studies using microPET can be directly correlated with clinical studies using PET, thus bridging the chasm that used to separate the 2 pivotal phases in drug development. This review first describes the basic principles of PET and compares it to other imaging modalities. Then, PET procedures and PET isotopes and tracers synthesis are outlined. Next, functional and molecular PET imaging applications in the fields of oncology, neurology, and cardiology in both humans and animals are presented. Spanning a wide range, these applications demonstrate the versatility of PET and how it can be used to accelerate drug discovery and development. Finally, the advantages and limitations of PET and how it can be used in the future to minimize risks of drug development are discussed.
Keywords: positron emission tomography, micropet, molecular imaging