Cerenkov radiation allows in vivo optical imaging of positron emitting radiotracers

Antonello E. Spinelli, Daniela D'Ambrosio, Laura Calderan, Mario Marengo, Andrea Sbarbati, Federico Boschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we showed that Cerenkov radiation (CR) escaping from the surface of small living animals injected with 18F-FDG can be detected with optical imaging techniques. 18F decays by emitting positrons with a maximum energy of 0.635 MeV; such positrons, when travelling into tissues faster than the speed of light in the same medium, are responsible of CR emission. A detailed model of the CR spectrum considering the positron energy spectrum was developed in order to quantify the amount of light emission. The results presented in this work were obtained using a commercial optical imager equipped with charged coupled detectors (CCD). Our data open the door to optical imaging (OI) in vivo of the glucose metabolism, at least in pre-clinical research. We found that the heart and bladder can be clearly identified in the animal body reflecting the accumulation of the 18F-FDG. Moreover, we describe two different methods based on the spectral analysis of the CR that can be used to estimate the depth of the source inside the animal. We conclude that 18F-FDG can be employed as it is as a bimodal tracer for positron emission tomography (PET) and OI techniques. Our results are encouraging, suggesting that it could be possible to apply the proposed approach not only to β+ but also to pure β- emitters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-495
Number of pages13
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology

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