Luca Saba


Department of Medical Sciences and Public HealthSaba

Telephone: +39 0706753193


Personal Webpage: here

Main areas of expertise: Diagnostic imaging




♦ Molecular imaging

In the early twenty-first century, Molecular Imaging emerged as a discipline at the intersection of molecular biology and in vivo imaging. Molecular Imaging allows the visualisation of the cellular function and the follow-up of the molecular process in living organisms without perturbing them.

Molecular imaging differs from traditional imaging in that probes known as biomarkers are used to help image particular targets or pathways. Biomarkers interact chemically with their surroundings and in turn alter the image according to molecular changes occurring within the area of interest. This process is markedly different from previous methods of imaging which primarily imaged differences in qualities such as density or water content.

This field has multiple and numerous potentialities applicable to the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer, and neurological and cardiovascular diseases. In particular, the impact of molecular imaging on diagnostics, therapy, and follow-up in oncology is increasing significantly. The process of molecular imaging includes key biotarget identification, design of specific molecular imaging probes, and their preclinical evaluation, e.g., in vivo using small animal studies. A multitude of such innovative molecular imaging probes have already entered clinical diagnostics in oncology.

Within this general line of research, specific projects to be fully developed in the next years are:

  1. Identification of molecular probes to track hepatocyte proliferation in small animal vivo imaging
  2. Application of molecular imaging in the multistep process of hepatocarcinogenesis 

Key publications:

  1. Saba L, Saam T, Jäger HR, Yuan C, Hatsukami TS, Saloner D, Wasserman BA, Bonati LH, Wintermark M. Imaging biomarkers of vulnerable carotid plaques for stroke risk prediction and their potential clinical implications. Lancet Neurol.  2019 Jun;18(6):559-572. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(19)30035-3. Epub 2019 Apr 4. Review. PubMed PMID: 30954372.
  2. Porcu M, Craboledda D, Garofalo P, Barberini L, Sanfilippo R, Zaccagna F, Wintermark M, Montisci R, Saba L. Reorganization of brain networks following carotid endarterectomy: an exploratory study using resting state functional connectivity with a focus on the changes in Default Mode Network connectivity. Eur J Radiol. 2019 Jan;110:233-241. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2018.12.007. Epub 2018 Dec 6. PubMed PMID: 30599866.
  3. Saba L, Argioas GM, Lucatelli P, Lavra F, Suri JS, Wintermark M. Variation of  degree of stenosis quantification using different energy level with dual energy CT scanner. Neuroradiology. 2019 Mar;61(3):285-291. doi: 10.1007/s00234-018-2142-x. Epub 2018 Dec 15. PubMed PMID: 30554271.
  4. Saba L, Lai L, Lucatelli P, Sanfilippo R, Montisci R, S Suri J, Faa G. Association between carotid artery plaque inflammation and brain MRI. J Neuroradiol. 2018 Nov 12. pii: S0150-9861(18)30215-3. doi: 10.1016/j.neurad.2018.10.004. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30439395.
  5. Saba L, Lucatelli P, Anzidei M, di Martino M, Suri JS, Montisci R. Volumetric Distribution of the White Matter Hyper-Intensities in Subject with Mild to Severe Carotid Artery Stenosis: Does the Side Play a Role? J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2018 Aug;27(8):2059-2066. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2018.02.065. Epub 2018 May 24. PubMed PMID: 29803599.
  6. Saba L, Yuan C, Hatsukami TS, Balu N, Qiao Y, DeMarco JK, Saam T, Moody AR, Li D, Matouk CC, Johnson MH, Jäger HR, Mossa-Basha M, Kooi ME, Fan Z, Saloner D, Wintermark M, Mikulis DJ, Wasserman BA; Vessel Wall Imaging Study Group of the American Society of Neuroradiology. Carotid Artery Wall Imaging: Perspective and  Guidelines from the ASNR Vessel Wall Imaging Study Group and Expert Consensus Recommendations of the American Society of Neuroradiology. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2018 Feb;39(2):E9-E31. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A5488. Epub 2018 Jan 11. PubMed PMID: 29326139.
  7. Saba L, Sanfilippo R, Porcu M, Lucatelli P, Montisci R, Zaccagna F, Suri JS, Anzidei M, Wintermark M. Relationship between white matter hyperintensities volume and the circle of Willis configurations in patients with carotid artery pathology. Eur J Radiol. 2017 Apr;89:111-116. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2017.01.031. Epub 2017 Feb 1. PubMed PMID: 28267525.
  8. Saba L, Argiolas GM, Sumer S, Siotto P, Raz E, Sanfilippo R, Montisci R, Piga M, Wintermark M. Association between internal carotid artery dissection and arterial tortuosity. Neuroradiology. 2015 Feb;57(2):149-53. doi: 10.1007/s00234-014-1436-x. Epub 2014 Oct 18. PubMed PMID: 25326167.
  9. Saba L, Argiolas GM, Raz E, Sannia S, Suri JS, Siotto P, Sanfilippo R, Montisci R, Piga M, Wintermark M. Carotid artery dissection on non-contrast CT: does color improve the diagnostic confidence? Eur J Radiol. 2014 Dec;83(12):2288-2293. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2014.09.001. Epub 2014 Sep 21. PubMed  PMID: 25306107.
  10. Saba L, Argiolas GM, Siotto P, Piga M (2013) Carotid artery plaque characterization using CT multienergy imaging. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 34: 855-859
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