Fibrosis, the progressive accumulation of connective tissue that occurs in response to injury, causes irreparable organ damage and may result in organ failure. The few available antifibrotic treatments modify the rate of fibrosis progression, but there are no available treatments to reverse established fibrosis. Thus, more effective therapies are urgently needed. Molecular imaging is a promising biomedical methodology that enables noninvasive visualization of cellular and subcellular processes. It provides a unique means to monitor and quantify dysregulated molecular fibrotic pathways in a noninvasive manner. Molecular imaging could be used for early detection, disease staging, and prognostication, as well as for assessing disease activity and treatment response. As fibrotic diseases are often molecularly heterogeneous, molecular imaging of a specific pathway could be used for patient stratification and cohort enrichment with the goal of improving clinical trial design and feasibility and increasing the ability to detect a definitive outcome for new therapies. Here we review currently available molecular imaging probes for detecting fibrosis and fibrogenesis, the active formation of new fibrous tissue, and their application to models of fibrosis across organ systems and fibrotic processes. We provide our opinion as to the potential roles of molecular imaging in human fibrotic diseases.
Sydney B. Montesi, Pauline Désogère, Bryan C. Fuchs, Peter Caravan