Molecular Imaging in Nephrology Research

Toxicology studies are an integral part of the drug development process. Since the kidneys are endocrine and exocrine glands and several compounds are eliminated by the urinary system, toxicology studies explore the detection of nephrotoxicity, which can be detected using early markers and imaging tools.

Several tracers have been developed to assess the physiological function of the kidneys. MAG3, DTPA and DMSA are among the most commonly used pharmaceuticals to study renal function when labeled with a SPECT radioisotope.

The improvements in resolution and sensitivity of small-animal SPECT systems have opened new possibilities in preclinical research, including serial imaging of the same animal, leading to reduction of animal numbers and enabling longitudinal studies on the same animal. The Triumph II SPECT/CT, for example, allows the user to quantify renal uptake of several radiolabelled peptides, enabling dosimetric calculations.

Furthermore, the short acquisition times allow dynamic imaging for monitoring renal function after the injection of radionuclide therapies. It is also possible to assess the vascularization of the kidneys using CT contrast agents, like gold nanoparticles which have a long half-life in the blood.