Feasibility Evaluation of Myocardial Cannabinoid Type 1 Receptor Imaging in Obesity: A Translational Approach

Ines Valenta, Zoltan V. Varga, Heather Valentine, Resat Cinar, Andrew Horti, William B Mathews, Robert F Dannals, Kimberley Steele, George Kunos, Richard L. Wahl, Martin Gilbert Pomper, Dean Foster Wong, Pal Pacher, Thomas H. Schindler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of targeted imaging of myocardial cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1-R) and its potential up-regulation in obese mice with translation to humans using [11C]-OMAR and positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT). Background: Activation of myocardial CB1-R by endocannabinoids has been implicated in cardiac dysfunction in diabetic mice. Obesity may lead to an up-regulation of myocardial CB1-R, potentially providing a mechanistic link between obesity and the initiation and/or progression of cardiomyopathy. Methods: Binding specificity of [11C]-OMAR to CB1-R was investigated by blocking studies with rimonabant in mice. The heart was harvested from each mouse, and its radioactivity was determined by γ-counter. Furthermore, [11C]-OMAR dynamic micro-PET/CT was carried out in obese and normal-weight mice. Ex vivo validation was performed by droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (absolute quantification) and RNAscope Technology (an in situ ribonucleic acid analysis platform). Subsequently, myocardial CB1-R expression was probed noninvasively with intravenous injection of CB1-R ligand [11C]-OMAR and PET/CT in humans with advanced obesity and normal-weight human control subjects, respectively. Results: Rimonabant significantly blocked OMAR uptake in the heart muscle compared with vehicle, signifying specific binding of OMAR to the CB1-R in the myocardium. The myocardial OMAR retention quantified by micro-PET/CT in mice was significantly higher in obese compared with normal-weight mice. Absolute quantification of CB1-R gene expression with droplet digital polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization confirmed CB1-R up-regulation in all major myocardial cell types (e.g., cardiomyocytes, endothelium, vascular smooth muscle cells, and fibroblasts) of obese mice. Obese mice also had elevated myocardial levels of endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol compared with lean mice. Translation to humans revealed higher myocardial OMAR retention in advanced obesity compared with normal-weight subjects. Conclusions: Noninvasive imaging of cardiac CB1-R expression in obesity is feasible applying [11C]-OMAR and PET/CT. These results may provide a rationale for further clinical testing of CB1-R-targeted molecular imaging in cardiometabolic diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-332
Number of pages13
JournalJACC: Cardiovascular Imaging
Issue number2P2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018



  • 2-arachidonoylglycerol
  • anandamide
  • cannabinoid type 1 receptor
  • CB1 receptor imaging
  • endocannabinoids
  • heart
  • obesity
  • PET/CT
  • [C]-OMAR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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