Multi-modality pre-clinical imaging is aiding, expediting advances in medical research

Advanced techniques like PET/CT image fusion are opening new doors in pre-clinical research

A recent article in Nature magazine said it best, “Dead mice tell too few tales.”

This refers to the notion that we can learn a lot more by studying the biologic processes of live animals via molecular imaging than through invasive techniques that sacrifice animals or utilize surgery. Many recent advances in medical research have been expedited and/or enabled by advanced molecular imaging techniques that often incorporate two or more imaging modalities at the same time (e.g., PET, SPECT, CT, X-ray or optical imaging).

All of these modalities have been around for a while. More recently, advanced multi-modal imaging systems designed specifically for life science and medical research have become much more affordable and practical for the lab environment. With today’s best-in-class in vivo systems incorporating multiple modalities and sophisticated image analysis software, researchers are able to see biological processes never thought possible just a few years ago. Knowledge of these processes is critical for understanding disease states and developing therapeutics for treating them.

This progress has also been aided by image fusion techniques that enable researchers to fuse images and data sets acquired with different modalities. As in the clinical world where image fusion is becoming more common, medical researchers are getting quantitative,  PET and SPECT images that can be co-registered with the precise 3D anatomical information offered by CT. In a similar fashion, researchers are fusing X-ray and optical molecular images to understand the interdependence biological pathways and disease states in living animals rapidly and non-destructively. Optical probes also offer the ability to study not only the location of these biological processes, but can also be used to study directly the change in activity of enzymes found in these pathways.

Quantitative PET imaging studies, that can be conducted in our new Albira PET/SPECT/CT imaging system for example, have been instrumental in precisely quantifying changes in brain metabolism in pre-clinical animal models of aging.* These changes in brain metabolism were then linked to other known important molecular changes during the aging process such as an increase in reactive oxygen species.

The increased ability for both researchers and clinicians to use the same imaging tools will further accelerate the application of successful pre-clinical animal studies in the lab to human clinical applications—a very good thing for all of us.

– John DelliSanti, President, Carestream Molecular Imaging

* Borras C, Stvolinsky S, Lopez-Grueso R, Fedorova T, Gambini J, Boldyrev A, Vina J FEBS Letters 2009, 583, 2287