Molecular Imaging to Identify the Vulnerable Plaque-From Basic Research to Clinical Practice

Dennis H. M. Kusters, Jan Tegtmeier, Leon J. Schurgers, Chris P. M. Reutelingsperger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death in the Western World. Adverse outcomes of CVD include stroke, myocardial infarction, and heart failure. Atherosclerosis is considered to be the major cause of CVD and is estimated to cause half of all deaths in developed countries. Atherosclerotic lesions of the vessel wall may obstruct blood flow mechanically through stenosis, but rupture of atherosclerotic plaques causing formation of occlusive thrombi is far more prevalent. Unfortunately, conventional diagnostic tools fail to assess whether a plaque is vulnerable to rupture. Research over the past decade identified the biological processes that are implicated in the course towards plaque rupture, like cell death and inflammation. Knowledge about plaque biology propelled the development of imaging techniques that target biologic processes in order to predict the vulnerable plaque. This paper discusses novel and existing molecular imaging targets and addresses advantages and disadvantages of these targets and respective imaging techniques in respect of clinical application and socio-economic impact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-533
JournalMolecular Imaging and Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • Molecular imaging
  • Vulnerable plaque
  • Atherosclerosis
  • MRI
  • PET


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