In the era of personalized medicine, there is an urgent need for in vivo techniques able to sensitively detect and quantify molecular activities. Sensitive imaging of gamma rays is widely used; however, radioactive decay is a physical constant, and its signal is independent of biological interactions. Here, we introduce a framework of previously uncharacterized targeted and activatable probes that are excited by a nuclear decay-derived signal to identify and measure molecular signatures of disease. We accomplished this by using Cerenkov luminescence, the light produced by β-particle-emitting radionuclides such as clinical positron emission tomography (PET) tracers. Disease markers were detected using nanoparticles to produce secondary Cerenkov-induced fluorescence. This approach reduces background signal compared to conventional fluorescence imaging. In addition to tumor identification from a conventional PET scan, we demonstrate the medical utility of our approach by quantitatively determining prognostically relevant enzymatic activity. This technique can be applied to monitor other markers and represents a shift toward activatable nuclear medicine agents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)