Non-invasive imaging of the diabetic pancreas is a long sought goal of clinical investigators. Challenges remain in imaging the diabetic pancreas and studies on pancreatic tissues are generally limited to autopsy. This review focuses on the new, fast developing field of molecular imaging of the diabetic condition both in Type I and Type II diabetes. The major areas under study include approaches to the measurement of beta-cell mass (BCM), early detection of lymphocyte infiltration in pancreatic islets during autoimmune attack and methods for visualizing beta-cell apoptosis occurring in Type I and Type II diabetes mellitus. In spite of being only a few years old, this new field has shown significant progress in developing methods to study BCM, lymphocyte invasion and its consequences in animal models. The results of these and other studies will be ultimately used for devising therapeutic interventions, monitoring their efficacy, as well as imaging high-risk patients. We expect that these methods will give us the ability to detect and, possibly, follow the early progression of diabetes, which will greatly aid and simplify the pharmacological intervention of this disease.
Keywords: molecular imaging, beta-cell mass, lymphocyte infiltration, cell tracking, beta-cell apoptosis, target-specific probe
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