Where X rays and ultrasounds show anatomy only, molecular imaging reveals what's happening with the cells and molecules inside the body. Previously, invasive procedures were necessary to do this. The most well known purpose of this tool is to diagnose diseases at very early stages, before any other non invasive tests can. The benefits of molecular imaging for the scientists in the medical and pharmaceutical fields are enormous.
The way the process works is that it picks up changing cell activity. The cells only change when a disease is present. Cancer, for example, is a cell that multiplies much faster than ordinary cells.
Dementia affected brain cells use less energy than ordinary brain cells. With any disease progress, eventually the body tissue undergoes anatomical change. It's only at this point Cat scans and MRIs are able to identify them.
These tests, though, can pick up changes long before anatomical alteration occurs. An imaging agent such as a radiotracer is introduced to the body. The device shows how that agent is distributed in the body, telling doctors if tissues are working properly.
This has had astounding results in oncology fields. Fatality rates have been decreasing by 1% every year since 1991. This is directly linked to our capacity for early diagnosis.
This test shows doctors how severe tumors are and reveals whether they have spread to other locations. Physicians are then able to choose appropriate treatment. Various types of cancers respond differently to different therapies so this is vital.
Once treatment has begun, doctors perform more of these tests to check whether treatment is working. Therapy types can be changed instantly where they're ineffective. Once treatment is over, molecular imaging is used to ensure that tumors aren't recurring. In other words, the ability to view cells is used at every stage of the cancer treatment process.
There are various kinds of molecular scans. PET scans are commonly used to detect, treat and manage cancer. PET CTs use a combination of types to create a highly detailed picture, sometimes in 3D. These technologies aren't used to detect all cancers but research is underway to enable us to detect other cancers better in the future.
Prostate cancer creates needless death since, when detected early, it's highly curable. With the help of this technology, doctors can evaluate the properties of the tumor accurately. This way the most effective treatment can be sought.
New technologies are being worked on by scientists which will hopefully be able to achieve even more than they have as yet. They'll show how aggressive a tumor is and even predict whether treatment will work. Genetic markers will be detectable too, an important aspect to predict and prevent cancer in family members.
Scientists also use this imaging in clinical trials and pharmaceutical research. In the future it may lead to faster drug approval as well as cheaper methods. They'll be capable of better strategic ways to develop new drugs as well.
The visualization and measurement of the body at a cellular level can save pharmaceutical companies time and money. The time it gains for the cancer patient is even more invaluable. The future looks exciting for scientists all over the world.
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