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18 F-Fluoride positron emission tomography/computed tomography for noninvasive in vivo quantification of pathophysiological bone metabolism in experimental murine arthritis

Ingo M Irmler1*, Peter Gebhardt23, Bianca Hoffmann2, Thomas Opfermann3, Marc-Thilo Figge24, Hans P Saluz24 and Thomas Kamradt1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Immunology, Jena University Hospital, Leutragraben 3, Jena 07743, Germany

2 Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, Hans-Knöll-Institute, Beutenbergstrasse 11a, Jena 07745, Germany

3 Department of Nuclear Medicine, Jena University Hospital, Bachstrasse 18, Jena 07743, Germany

4 Friedrich Schiller University, Fürstengraben 1, Jena 07743, Germany

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2014, 16:R155  doi:10.1186/ar4670

Published: 22 July 2014



Evaluation of disease severity in experimental models of rheumatoid arthritis is inevitably associated with assessment of structural bone damage. A noninvasive imaging technology allowing objective quantification of pathophysiological alterations of bone structure in rodents could substantially extend the methods used to date in preclinical arthritis research for staging of autoimmune disease severity or efficacy of therapeutical intervention. Sodium 18 F-fluoride (18 F-NaF) is a bone-seeking tracer well-suited for molecular imaging. Therefore, we systematically examined the use of 18 F-NaF positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) in mice with glucose-6-phosphate isomerase (G6PI)–induced arthritis for quantification of pathological bone metabolism.


F-fluoride was injected into mice before disease onset and at various time points of progressing experimental arthritis. Radioisotope accumulation in joints in the fore- and hindpaws was analyzed by PET measurements. For validation of bone metabolism quantified by 18 F-fluoride PET, bone surface parameters of high-resolution μCT measurements were used.


Before clinical arthritis onset, no distinct accumulation of 18 F-fluoride was detectable in the fore- and hindlimbs of mice immunized with G6PI. In the course of experimental autoimmune disease, 18 F-fluoride bone uptake was increased at sites of enhanced bone metabolism caused by pathophysiological processes of autoimmune disease. Moreover, 18 F-fluoride signaling at different stages of G6PI-induced arthritis was significantly correlated with the degree of bone destruction. CT enabled identification of exact localization of 18 F-fluoride signaling in bone and soft tissue.


The results of this study suggest that small-animal PET/CT using 18 F-fluoride as a tracer is a feasible method for quantitative assessment of pathophysiological bone metabolism in experimental arthritis. Furthermore, the possibility to perform repeated noninvasive measurements in vivo allows longitudinal study of therapeutical intervention monitoring.