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Immunol Rev. 2008 Feb;221:214-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2008.00585.x.

Non-invasive imaging of adaptive immunity using positron emission tomography.

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Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1662, USA.


Non-invasive monitoring of adaptive immunity in infection, cancer, and autoimmunity remains a major challenge. Current techniques to monitor lymphocytes involve numeric and functional determinations of immune cells isolated from the peripheral blood (most often) and tissue (rarely). Invasive measurements are prone to sampling errors and are poorly reflective of the dynamic changes in the location, number, and movement of lymphoid cells. These limitations indicate the need for non-invasive whole-body imaging methodologies that allow longitudinal, quantitative, and functional analyses of the immune system in vivo. Positron emission tomography (PET), a clinically based whole-body imaging modality, has the potential to revolutionize diagnostics and therapeutic monitoring in both clinical and pre-clinical settings. This review discusses studies using PET to image adaptive immune responses in small animal models. We address the challenges inherent in assessing whole-body immunity with PET and recent developments that can improve its performance. Finally, we discuss work to translate PET immune imaging into clinical practice.

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