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Expert Opinion on Drug Discovery

  • Pharmacology

In vivo near-infrared fluorescent optical imaging for CNS drug discovery

Authors Maria J. Moreno, Binbing Ling and Danica B. Stanimirovic


Introduction: In vivo imaging technologies have become an integral and essential component of drug discovery, development, and clinical assessment for central nervous system (CNS) diseases. Near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence imaging in the range of 650–950 nm is widely used for pre-clinical in vivo imaging studies. The recent expansion of NIR imaging into the shortwave infrared (SWIR, 1000–1700 nm) window enabled improvements in tissue penetration and resolution required for anatomical, dynamic, and molecular neuroimaging with high potential for clinical translation. 

Areas covered: This review focuses on the latest progress in near-infrared (NIR)-fluorescent optical imaging modalities with an emphasis on the SWIR window. Advantages and challenges in developing novel organic and inorganic SWIR emitters, with special attention to their toxicology and pharmacology, are discussed. Examples of their application in preclinical imaging of brain function and pathology provide a platform to assess the potential for their clinical translation. 

Expert opinion: Propelled through concomitant technological advancements in imaging instrumentation, algorithms and new SWIR emitters, SWIR imaging has addressed key barriers to optical imaging modalities used in pre-clinical studies addressing the CNS. The development of biocompatible SWIR emitters and the adoption of SWIR into multi-modal imaging modalities promise to rapidly advance optical imaging into translational studies and clinical applications.

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