A Novel Positron Emission Tomography Probe for Imaging Liver Disease and Metabolic Imbalance

Tech ID: 22806 / UC Case 2012-416-0


Researchers at the UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology have developed a new PET probe designed to image ribose metabolism in vivo.


Positron emission tomography (PET) is a medical imaging technique that follows radioactive tracers to produce a 3D image of functional processes in the body. The most prominent use of PET is in clinical oncology; by following the glucose surrogate fluorodeoxyglucose, physicians can visualize the uptake of this sugar, thereby facilitating tumor diagnosis and staging. In the liver, ribose is metabolized extensively. Thus, monitoring the state of this organ would be greatly aided by a PET tracer that specifically follows ribose. Such a probe could be used to not only diagnose liver cancer, cirrhosis, and hepatitis, but also to assess side effects of therapeutics on liver function.

The potential market for tools to assess liver health is tremendous. The CDC places liver disease in the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. With the ever-worsening obesity epidemic, the prevalence of associated liver maladies will only increase in the coming years.


Professor Owen Witte and colleagues at the UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology have developed a new PET probe designed to image ribose metabolism in vivo. Initial studies in mice demonstrate that it specifically localizes to the liver. Moreover, researchers observe that its uptake in the organ depends on a healthy metabolic state, demonstrating its potential utility as an indicator of metabolic dysfunction.


  • Image diseases of the liver
    • Cirrhosis
    • Hepatitis
    • Hepatorcarcinoma
  • Study the efficacy of anti-diabetic drugs


  • First PET probe to specifically monitor ribose metabolism in vivo
  • Specifically accumulates in the liver in vivo
    • In cases where only liver metabolism is to be monitored, physicians may be able to reduce the amount of radioactive material to be delivered to the patient
  • Easy to synthesize

State Of Development

Thus far, the probe has been synthesized and tested in a number of rodent models. Not only have the researchers shown that it specifically accumulates in the liver, but its uptake is also impaired in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes. Currently, they are planning experiments with additional animal models to identify other diseases in which imaging ribose metabolism could be medically useful. Funding is in place for the planned research.

Patent Status

Country Type Number Dated Case
United States Of America Issued Patent 9,592,309 03/14/2017 2012-416


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  • Witte, Owen N.

Other Information


PET, ribose metabolism, liver, imaging

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