Nanotheranostics 2021; 5(3):256-274. doi:10.7150/ntno.51676


Radiolabelling of Extracellular Vesicles for PET and SPECT imaging

Azalea A. Khan, Rafael T. M. de Rosales

Dept. of Imaging Chemistry and Biology, School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences, King's College London, St. Thomas' Hospital, London, United Kingdom.

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Khan AA, T. M. de Rosales R. Radiolabelling of Extracellular Vesicles for PET and SPECT imaging. Nanotheranostics 2021; 5(3):256-274. doi:10.7150/ntno.51676. Available from

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Extracellular vesicles (EVs) such as exosomes and microvesicles have gained recent attention as potential biomarkers of disease as well as nanomedicinal tools, but their behaviour in vivo remains mostly unexplored. In order to gain knowledge of their in vivo biodistribution it is important to develop imaging tools that allow us to track EVs over time and at the whole-body level. Radionuclide-based imaging (PET and SPECT) have properties that allow us to do so efficiently, mostly due to their high sensitivity, imaging signal tissue penetration, and accurate quantification. Furthermore, they can be easily translated from animals to humans. In this review, we summarise and discuss the different studies that have used PET or SPECT to study the behaviour of EVs in vivo. With a focus on the different radiolabelling methods used, we also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each one, and the challenges of imaging EVs due to their variable stability and heterogeneity.

Keywords: Exosomes, EVs, Nanomedicine, Imaging, Radiolabelling, PET, SPECT.