VisEn Medical (Bedford, Massachusetts) is not surprised that its imaging technology has been used to generate "very useful data" enabling scientists to discover a new biologic pathway, according to Jeffrey Peterson, PhD, VP of Applied Biology at VisEn. But what Peterson is really pleased about is the fact that the research, published in the July 31 issue of Science, proves the imaging technology produces "more than just a pretty picture."

VisEn said researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital's (Boston) Center for Systems Biology have discovered a key disease-related biologic pathway using an integrated and "innovative" array of in vitro readouts and advanced in vivo imaging technologies.

According to the company, the newly reported biologic pathway relates to monocyte deployment from the spleen to inflammatory sites, including myocardial infarction. The findings are expected to open up new areas of research and potentially advance therapeutic approaches to key disease areas including inflammation and myocardial injury, VisEn said.

Peterson told Medical Device Daily that the paper validates the company's technology.

"What this paper says is 'we're not at the level of imaging anymore where we're just satisfied with making pretty pictures' and really that's where imaging started ... we're moving well beyond that and have been moving well beyond that for a number of years," Peterson said.

In the Science report, titled "Identification of Splenic Reservoir Monocytes and Their Deployment to Inflammatory Sites," the researchers found that monocytes were held in concentration in the spleen and released to injured tissue sites in the body to participate in wound healing. As presented in the findings, the reporting scientists discovered and detailed the biologic pathway through the use of a series of advanced and integrated in vitro assays, microscopic readouts, and in vivo imaging methodologies, including magnetic resonance (MR) imaging combined with quantitative fluorescence molecular tomographic (FMT) imaging. Used together in a series of "novel" scientific models, the researchers developed correlated data sets to both identify this previously unidentified splenic reservoir of monocytes, and demonstrate the monocyte deployment to inflammatory sites in vivo. In the in vivo data analysis, non-invasive, quantitative FMT imaging using novel fluorescent molecular imaging agents, combined with MR imaging, clearly demonstrated not only the location, but also the biological activity of the recruited splenic monocytes at the disease site, thus helping to confirm "unambiguously the fate of monocytes from the spleen to the heart," according to the paper.

"FMT technology is quantifiable, [it's] not just about making a pretty picture. You can answer important questions about important disease biology," Peterson said.

According to VisEn, its in vivo fluorescence imaging technologies, including its Fluorescence Agent Portfolio and its FMT imaging systems, provide robust fluorescence molecular imaging performance in identifying, characterizing and quantifying ranges of disease biomarkers and therapeutic efficacy in vivo. VisEn's FMT systems and agents are used by research institutions and pharmaceutical companies worldwide in applications including cancer research, inflammation, cardiovascular, skeletal and pulmonary disease, the company said. VisEn said it also works with large pharmaceutical and clinical partners to design ranges of tailored molecular imaging agents and applications designed for their specific pre-clinical and clinical research areas.

"We see the integration of in vitro and in vivo readouts becoming increasingly important in research today, and we are extremely pleased that our FMT quantitative in vivo imaging technology and activatable in vivo imaging agents were able to help the research team answer some of the key questions about this important biologic pathway in vivo," Peterson said. "When cardiac molecular imaging data from the FMT was combined with MRI imaging, the researchers were able to create a fused molecular and anatomical imaging map of the heart to identify and quantify biomarkers of monocyte activity in vivo. These results enabled an important data correlation that further enhanced the integrated array of in vitro assays and microscopy-based readouts of this important pathway."

Peterson noted the importance of being able to simultaneously image multiple different types of biology by using the right types of imaging agents and said that is a big part of what VisEn does. "We are generating and developing new research tools ... this particular paper highlights looking at two different types of biologies ... you can even go more diverse than that," he said. "We have four lasers now being put on our imaging system, so you can look at three or four different biologies at the same time which gives you a much more clear, albeit complex, picture of disease biology," Peterson said.