CMFI Research Directions

On the Forefront of Molecular Imaging

Molecular imaging extends the diagnostic and therapeutic vision of Radiology into the field of genetics and molecular biology. Molecular imaging goes hand-in-hand with functional imaging, something we have been doing for some time with PET, functional MR and MR spectroscopy. Molecular imaging encompasses many approaches, including the use of MRS to assay the biomolecular status of specific regions to differentiate neoplastic from normal tissues, and the imaging of radiolabeled antibodies and other targeted agents with PET and SPECT to give insights into molecular development and control of disease.

Molecular Imaging Capabilities

  • Follow cellular and subcellular processes, such as angiogenesis, which have the potential to control the spread of cancer or return function in ischemic tissues.
  • Detect apoptosis (“programmed cell death”) as a sensitive and immediate means of monitoring therapeutic response before anatomical changes become apparent.
  • Assess the impact of new genetic therapies for neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, and other disorders which have resisted traditional treatment methods such as surgery, radiation therapy, or pharmacology.

Molecular imaging also provides new insights to help understand the biochemical and genetic basis of life and disease, and to tailor individualized treatments that are more specific and effective than generalized therapies. Molecular imaging also has an essential role in enabling fundamental biological research and the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic techniques by the health care, pharmacological, and biotechnology industries, including studies that extend from small animals (mice and rats) to humans.

State-of-the-Art Technology

The CMFI includes 50,000 square feet of laboratory and office space for approximately 130 faculty, research scientists, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and staff. The main reception area and primary research space is on the third floor of 185 Berry Street, with a view of the Mission Bay campus. Suite 350 includes spacious physics, chemistry, nuclear medicine, tissue culture, and instrumentation development laboratories. Shared resources provide state-of-the-art instrumentation which includes a Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) microscope, a small-animal SPECT/CT dual-modality imaging system, a micro PET/CT, specimen storage, and an animal housing and surgical suite.

On the first floor, is San Francisco’s first high-field 3 Tesla MR scanner, along with a Phillips 16-slice research CT scanner. Additional laboratory and development space on the first floor includes a radiochemistry laboratory, generic laboratory benches for future recruitments, a small bore 7T MRI, and offices and cubicles for desk-based research. The area is contiguous to the UCSF Medical Center's Outpatient Imaging Center which includes CT, MRI, PET/CT and outpatient nuclear medicine. We have blended clinical PET with important work in PET-related research, target development and other molecular imaging research.

With basic scientists nearby at Mission Bay, and members of the Radiology faculty representing physics, nuclear medicine, bioengineering, musculoskeletal research, informatics, and neuroradiology, the Center is well positioned to meet the molecular imaging needs of a diverse academic community at UCSF and to pursue research in all areas of radiology.