It recently occurred to me, after posting a number of blog notes about molecular imaging, that the term was too ambiguous to continue using without some additional clarification. On its face, it means to create images that can be used to identify and locate various molecules in tissue. This is a goal that is being actively pursued in radiology departments and in radiologic research in relation to radiology imaging techniques such as PET/CT.
By way of contrast, I have also used the same term in Lab Soft News to refer to the identification of molecules in surgically removed tissue with immunohistochemistry (IHC), for example, in surgical pathology and other clinical settings. I also posted a note (see: Charles River Acquires Molecular Imaging Company) about this company, a contract research organization (CRO), acquiring a molecular imaging company for support of its pre-clinical research activities.
It turns out the the best way to disambiguate the term molecular imaging, as practiced in radiology, from the its use in the clinical labs and in basic research was addressed in two other notes that I had posted (see: Are We Ready for the Diagnostic Hybridist?, Running the IV2D Experiment: Bottom-Up vs.Top-Down). I was searching for a term to differentiate the in-vivo diagnostics practiced by radiologists from the in-vitro diagnostics practiced by pathologists. I hit on the term IV2D to encompass in-vivo and in-vitro work.
By using the same general naming convention, the imaging procedures performed by radiologists can be referred to as in-vivo molecular imaging and those by the pathologist or basic researcher on surgically resected tissue as in-vitro molecular imaging. As a simpler alternative, the former can be called radiologic molecular imaging and the latter tissue molecular imaging.