Molecular imaging can reveal in vivo analysis and quantification of biochemical reactions. To enable cell-surface imaging of receptors, novel ligands have been developed which can be radiolabeled or imaged by bioluminescence. Specific examples include somatostatin receptors, estrogen and progesterone receptors, receptors involved in adhesion and externalization of phosphatidyl serine as an indicator of apoptosis. Central nervous system imaging can be carried out using ligands for receptors including dopamine, serotonin and Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). In addition, tumor and metabolic imaging can be carried out with the Na-K ATPase pump using the tracer thallium-201 for SPECT or F-18 FDG for PET imaging. Finally, novel receptors or endogenous metabolic pathways can be analyzed combining cell-gene therapy to create specific tracer targets in cells that can be studied by molecular imaging. The challenge of molecular imaging is to first identify key pathways that are unique for a specific disease processes, such as atherosclerosis, cancer, CNS disorders, immunologic and arthritis disorders and next to devise a high-affinity specific small molecular ligand that can be adapted to be a radiolabeled tracer to study this pathway. Advances in genomics and proteomics combine with new peptide-chemistry approaches should provide a large number of targets and tracers in the near future to achieve these imaging objectives. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.