Cardiovascular bioimaging of nitric oxide: achievements, challenges, and the future

Achini K Vidanapathirana, Peter J Psaltis, Christina A Bursill, Andrew D Abell, Stephen J Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Nitric oxide (NO) is a ubiquitous, volatile, cellular signaling molecule that operates across a wide physiological concentration range (pM-µM) in different tissues. It is a highly diffusible messenger and intermediate in various metabolic pathways. NO plays a pivotal role in maintaining optimum cardiovascular function, particularly by regulating vascular tone and blood flow. This review highlights the need for accurate, real-time bioimaging of NO in clinical diagnostic, therapeutic, monitoring, and theranostic applications within the cardiovascular system. We summarize electrochemical, optical, and nanoscale sensors that allow measurement and imaging of NO, both directly and indirectly via surrogate measurements. The physical properties of NO render it difficult to accurately measure in tissues using direct methods. There are also significant limitations associated with the NO metabolites used as surrogates to indirectly estimate NO levels. All these factors added to significant variability in the measurement of NO using available methodology have led to a lack of sensors and imaging techniques of clinical applicability in relevant vascular pathologies such as atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease. Challenges in applying current methods to biomedical and clinical translational research, including the wide physiological range of NO and limitations due to the characteristics and toxicity of the sensors are discussed, as are potential targets and modifications for future studies. The development of biocompatible nanoscale sensors for use in combination with existing clinical imaging modalities provides a feasible opportunity for bioimaging NO within the cardiovascular system.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedicinal Research Reviews
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

Cite this