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Joint unit 1023 Molecular imaging

This mixed INSERM-CEA research unit carries out research on the observation and analysis of the chemistry of life by non-invasive imaging methods
These imaging methods are :
- radioisotopic imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT).
- optical imaging of fluorescence and luminescence chemistry
The applications concern principally the fields of oncology, neurology and of metabolic and inflammatory disease.

The team is headed by Anne Flury-Herard and includes the following members :

Research themes

The research theme of this team is to create innovating and generic methods for in vivo molecular imaging.

  • Imaging means the technique that allows to generate distribution maps of molecules.
  • Molecular specifies the biochemical character of the observation.
  • In Vivo indicates that the investigation concerns the living organism

The team develops to this end aptamers for the diagnosis and therapy of tumours expressing the receptor tyrosine kinase RET, selects aptamers against different proteases implicated in cancer and conceives models for the study with in vivo imaging of the function of genes implicated in cancer.

  • In vivo imaging of aptamers against RET oncogenes.
  • Multimodal imaging study of the role of metalloprotease MT4 in the development of metastases
  • Identification of metastasis markers with the help of aptamers and proteomic approaches.

It integrates also the necessary competences for oncological and neurological imaging of small animals.

  • Imaging and in vivo vectorisation of interferential RNA.
  • Validation of the determination of the therapeutic efficacy of anti cancer drugs by imaging in a mouse model of breast cancer.
  • Longitudinal follow up by imaging of transgenic models of neurodegenerative diseases (the RatStream programme).


Our principal research axis is positron emission tomography (PET) of oligonucleotides. The pharmacokinetic characterization by imaging is a powerful technique to aid the development of oligonucleotides as a new class of drugs. Radiolabelled oligonucleotides may also permit to explore gene expression by in vivo imaging:

  • either by hybridisation of an antisense oligonucleotide with a messenger- or viral RNA
  • or by linking an aptamer oligonucleotide with a protein.

We have finalized the necessary methodology for in vivo imaging with fluorine-18 labelled oligonucleotides.

The non-invasive character of the developed imaging techniques permits a repeat of the examination in the same subject, along his development or aging, during the development of a pathology or for following the effect of a treatment or an artificial genetic modification.