Molecular Imaging

Molecular Imaging Research in Oxford

An area of explosive growth in Oxford is in molecular imaging. The University is well placed to capitalise on the broad expertise in imaging sciences and medicinal chemistry, backed up by expertise in cellular microscopy and labelling. These programmes are ideally placed to facilitate translation of novel chemistry from test-tube to man, as well as providing crucial animal models of disease processes. Examples of areas of opportunity are in markers for stroke (linked to the neuro OxAVIC theme), cancer (linked to the human PET initiative), cardiac failure (linked to the cardiac OCMR and OxACIC themes), atherosclerotic plaque characterisation (linked to the cardiology OCMR and OxAVIC themes) and inflammation (e.g., stroke, MS).

The burgeoning Oxford molecular imaging programme will be considerably bolstered by the Oxford Chemistry for Biomedicine Initiative, that is raising funds to create a core medicinal chemistry infrastructure within the Dept of Chemistry, and for which imaging agents (both smart contrast agents and image guided/verified therapeutic agents) will be a core theme. There are already strengths in PET and SPECT agents for tumour hypoxia and angiogenesis markers, and MRI agents as inflammation markers. Other targets would be pH, apoptosis and metabolism. With increased radiochemistry capacity there is also the prospect of producing agents for cardiac metabolism and neurotransmitter applications. Within the Dept of Physics the Bionanotechnology IRC is developing novel nanostructures with potential application in drug delivery with imaging contrast payloads. Finally, the Dept of Engineering Science is developing novel image analysis algorithms to exploit molecular imaging data.

As part of the Oxford molecular imaging strategy the university is planning to install a research-dedicated cyclotron (incorporating Cu, O, C and F targets). This facility will link to the existing Surface Analysis Facility (Chemistry Research Lab); Nikon-Oxford Molecular Imaging Centre (Chemistry Research Lab); Oxford Siemens Molecular Imaging Laboratory (Inorganic Chemistry); and with image analysis efforts in the Engineering Science, such as the Wolfson Medical Vision Laboratory.