Small Animal Imaging Core

Overview of Services

Preliminary testing in laboratory animals has long had an essential role in the development of new pharmaceuticals and methods for treating human disease. The current development of sophisticated transgenic animal models as well as a growing recognition of the importance of understanding disease processes in the context of the living host has extended the use of animal experimentation beyond safety and efficacy testing into the realm of mechanistic investigation. Non-invasive imaging makes it possible to perform multiple measurements over time in the same animal, thereby enhancing data quality in studies of dynamic molecular and physiologic processes as well as greatly reducing the number of animals required for such studies.

During the last several years, scanners for small animals have become commercially available for all of the established modalities of medical imaging (X-ray, CT, MRI, SPECT, PET, ultrasound), as well as for optical imaging (Luminescence and Fluorescence). With this technology, the dynamic biodistribution of therapeutic agents as well as vital processes such as gene expression, cell trafficking, cell viability, cell proliferation, tissue hypoxia and angiogenesis can be monitored non-invasively in the intact animal.


Small animal imaging has become indispensable to medical research and development and helps the investigator remain competitive for extramural funding.



The SAIC currently supports nuclear (γ and positrons), X-ray and optical (bioluminescence and fluorescence) imaging in small animals. Imaging systems in hand include: 

  • 2 units for either optical luminescence or fluorescence imaging with X-ray (Lago X, Spectral)
  • 1 unit for either optical luminescence or fluorescence imaging (Lago, Spectral)
  • 1 trimodal PET/SPECT/CT scanner (Inveon, Siemens)

 The Siemens Inveon system PET module and SPECT/CT modules can be docked into a single unit where the 2 gantries can operate independently under the control of individual workstations or as a single gantry under the control of a single workstation.  The Imaging Laboratory is also equipped with a gamma counter (AMG; HIDEX).

Functional Imaging studies are conducted using the PET/SPECT system.  Engineered antibody constructs as well as other proteins, peptides and DNAs and RNAs are being labeled with radioiodine (123I/124I) or radiometals (111In/64Cu/89Zr/68Ga). Planar imaging studies are being performed using 125I- and 123I-labeled antibody constructs and/or 111In conjugated to the antibody construct using an appropriate chelate linker.  The positron emission tomography (PET) studies use 124I-labeled antibody constructs as well as 64Cu-conjugated to the antibody construct using an appropriate chelate linker (e.g. DOTA) or 89Zr using the DFO chelate, or 18F-labeled deoxyglucose or other commercially available compounds labeled with positron-emitting radioisotopes.  Labeled constructs are evaluated in biodistribution and tumor uptake studies in murine tumor models as well as other small animal models.


Lago and Lago X (Spectral Instruments Imaging)

Located in Parvin 1031, Parvin 1037 and BRC 1260



Biophotonic Imaging Systems

The Lago and Lago X are both non-invasive, real-time system for in vivo imaging of bio-luminescence.  In this context, bio-luminescence results from enzyme-mediated chemical reactions involving injected substrates.  The most commonly used enzyme/substrate combination is luciferase/luciferin. The luciferase gene is incorporated into cells so as to be constitutively (i.e., continuously) expressed for monitoring cellular growth and anatomic location.  Alternatively, luciferase may be placed under the control of a promoter of interest and used as a reporter gene.  When the animal is injected with luciferin, the luciferase in the cells (e.g. hematopoietic stem cells, tumor, or engineered T-cells) activates the luciferin resulting in the emission of light.  The cooled charge-coupled device (CCD) camera system captures the resulting image and allows quantitative analysis of the acquired emissions.  These images can be used to monitor cellular activity and track gene expression, the spread of a disease, and the effects of new therapeutics.


 Fluorescent Imaging System

The Lago and Lago X system contains LED based illumination offering a non-invasive, real-time system for in vivo imaging of fluorescence and lumimescence.  The Lago and Lago X have fourteen illumination LEDs  360, 405, 430, 465, 500, 535, 570, 605, 640, 675, 710, 745, 770 and 805nm and twenty emission filters of 490, 510, 530, 550, 570, 590, 610, 630, 650, 670, 690, 710, 730, 750, 770, 790, 810, 830, 850, and 870nm.  Both the Lago and the Lago X systems will cover detection for GFP (509nm) in virto, A488 (519-525nm), mcherry (610nm), A647 (665nm), Cy5.5 (695nm), 800CW (792nm), ICG (830nm) and others. 


Siemens Inveon System

Location: Parvin 1037A

The Siemens Inveon system is comprised of a PET module and a SPECT/CT module.  They can operate independently or be docked into a single unit where they can be used as a single gantry under the control of a single workstation.


Siemens Inveon CT Module

The detector has 3072 x 2048 pixels and may be configured for a FOV as large as 8.4 cm x 5.5 cm. With a 12 bit deep readout of the raw data, this detector has a dynamic range of 69 dB (1 x 1 binning) to 72 dB (2 x 2 and 4 x 4 binning), providing excellent signal-to-noise ratio.  The CT has a variable-focus X-ray source with a maximum resolution is 20 microns.


Siemens Inveon PET Module

The Inveon PET imaging system has 10 mm thick LSO crystals with 1.59 mm x 1.59 mm detector pixel spacing resulting in an absolute sensitivity of 10% at the center of the field of view.  The system has an axial field of view (FOV) of 12.7 cm that is extended to 30 cm with continuous bed motion.


Siemens Inveon SPECT Module

The Inveon SPECT detectors have sub-millimeter resolution it detects gamma rays from 30 keV to 300 keV.  The head has 2 mm x 2 mm x 10 mm detector crystals and a 150 mm x 150 mm field of view (FOV).


Publications that have used the SAIC should include the following:

Research reported in this publication included work performed in the Small Animal Imaging Core supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number P30CA33572. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.



The Small Animal Imaging Core (SAIC) is directed by Dr. Anna Wu, managed by Dr. Tove Olafsen and staffed by 

Patty Wong.

Location and hours of operation


Hours Location


8:30 am - 5:00 pm

Monday - Friday


24/7 For the Lago and the Lago X after Training          

Parvin 1031, Parvin 1037 , BRC 1260 and Parvin 1037A


Links and Resources


Small Animal Imaging Information for Grant Submission


Name Role Phone Email Location
Dr. Anna Wu
Core Director
Hilton H138
Tove Olafsen
Core Manager
Beckman 5205
Patty Wong
Imaging Specialist

Darren Zuro


Imaging Lab


Parvin 1037A
Betty Chang
Imaging Specialist