Molecular imaging & imaging-guided therapy

What is a DHU ?

DHU (Hospital-University Department) aims to enhance research and improve the quality of care, by faster diffusion of innovations. It makes it possible to renovate the relations between hospital, university and research organizations, while respecting the identities and the prerogatives of each of these institutions. The DHU is a driving force behind the hospital-university dynamics, creating new synergies and bringing innovative elements to the site policy.

The DHU is constituted around a specific theme, within a well-defined hospital-university perimeter. A DHU brings together a significant body of researchers, teacher-researchers and hospital staff and demonstrates a level of excellence that positions it as an international reference in the theme it covers.

Medical imaging is a century-old discipline whose spectacular developments have revolutionized medical practice several times since Wilhelm Roentgen radiographed the skeleton of his wife's hand exposed to an X-ray beam. From this discovery (which should be remembered as accidental), other diagnostic approaches to living tissues have emerged, such as isotopic imaging (PET and SPECT), computer tomography (CT or scanner), ultrasound (US), fluoroscopy, magnetic resonance (MRI).

Today, imaging not only allows each organ to be visualized in details, but also gives access to the mode of action of the major diseases. It shows strikingly, in three dimensions and in color, contractions of the myocardium, sections of abdomen or brain. Medical imaging makes it possible to  track the movement of water molecules along the nerve fibers or blood in the arteries, to visualize cells being born or dying within a tumor or antibodies fighting an infection, to perform a virtual colonoscopy, or even to see how our emotions, such as fear or love, are expressed within the brain itself.


Challenges of Medical Imaging

At the same time, advances in biology, including the deciphering of the human genome, open up wonderful opportunities for diagnosis and therapy, and motivate request for a technique: multimodal molecular imaging. This one is based on isotopic imaging (PET and SPECT) coupled with X-ray imaging (CT or scanner) or magnetic resonance (MRI), which provides increasingly precise images, and also allow analysis and quantification of key metabolic functions at the cell level. Indeed, it is necessary not only to detect but to identify the diseases, to estimate their aggressiveness, to quantify their response to a therapy in order to optimize it. Surgeons are also helped to develop their operational strategy on virtual representations of the patient and then follow in real time the movement of their instruments in the complex environment of the human body.

All these advances cannot be developed without voluntarist, multidisciplinary and coordinated actions.

The new generation of instruments is based on significant breakthroughs resulting from technological leaps in physics, materials science, optics, electronics, information sciences, as well as in the field of molecular biology and medical sciences.

This approach is as dynamic and interactive as possible between the developers of imaging systems, physicists, engineers, computer scientists, chemists and users, whether clinicians or biologists, in close partnership with industry. All this will allow the development of more efficient diagnostic techniques but also of personalized therapeutics thanks to the guided therapy by imaging (percutaneous or endovascular interventions guided by imagery in order to deposit a therapeutic agent on a target) and by internal radiotherapy (isotopic therapeutic agents guided by a vector specific to the disease).