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Atherosclerosis. 2010 Sep;212(1):181-7. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2010.05.012. Epub 2010 May 24.

In vivo optical molecular imaging of matrix metalloproteinase activity in abdominal aortic aneurysms correlates with treatment effects on growth rate.

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Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 55 Fruit St., White 427, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



We present a method to quantify the inflammatory processes that drive abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) development that may help predict the rate of growth and thus guide medical and surgical management. We use an in vivo optical molecular imaging approach to quantify protease activity within the walls of AAAs in a rodent model.


AAAs were generated in mice by topical application of calcium chloride, followed by the administration of the MMP inhibitor doxycycline for 3 months. After this time period, an enzyme-activatable optical molecular imaging agent sensitive to MMP activity was administered, and MMP proteolytic activity was measured in vivo. Histology and in situ zymography were performed for validation. AAAs were also generated in rats, and MMP activity within the walls of the AAAs was also quantified endovascularly.


A dose-dependent response of AAA growth rate to doxycycline administration was demonstrated, with high doses of the drug resulting in nearly complete suppression of aneurysm formation. There was a direct relationship between the rate of aneurysmal growth and measured MMP activity, with a linear best-fit well approximating the relationship. We additionally performed endovascular imaging of AAAs in rats and demonstrated a similar suppression of intramural MMP activity following doxycycline administration.


We present an in vivo evaluation of MMP activity within the walls of AAAs in rodents and show a direct, linear relationship between proteolytic activity and aneurysmal growth. We also illustrate that this functional imaging method can be performed endovascularly, demonstrating potential pre-clinical and clinical applications.

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