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Early diagnosis and therapy increasingly operate at the cellular, molecular, or even at the genetic level. As diagnostic techniques transition from the systems to the molecular level, the role of multimodality molecular imaging becomes increasingly important. Positron emission tomography(PET) and magnetic resonance imaging(MRI) are powerful techniques for in vivo molecular imaging. The inability of PET to provide anatomical information is a major limitation of standalone PETsystems. Combining PET and CT proved to be clinically relevant and successfully reduced this limitation by providing the anatomical information required for localization of metabolic abnormalities. However, this technology still lacks the excellent soft-tissue contrast provided by MRI. Standalone MRIsystems reveal structure and function but cannot provide insight into the physiology and/or the pathology at the molecular level. The combination of PET and MRI, enabling truly simultaneous acquisition, bridges the gap between molecular and systems diagnosis. MRI and PET offer richly complementary functionality and sensitivity; fusion into a combined system offering simultaneous acquisition will capitalize the strengths of each, providing a hybrid technology that is greatly superior to the sum of its parts. A combined PET/MRI system provides both the anatomical and structural description of MRI simultaneously with the quantitative capabilities of PET. In addition, such a system would allow exploiting the power of MR spectroscopy (MRS) to measure the regional biochemical content and to assess the metabolic status or the presence of neoplasia and other diseases in specific tissue areas. This paper briefly summarizes state-of-the-art developments and latest advances in dedicated hybrid PET/MRI instrumentation. Future prospects and potential clinical applications of this technology will also be discussed.


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