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Animal Imaging

The Center for Comparative Medicine and Research in conjunction with the Surgical Research Labs (SRL), Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI) and Advanced Imaging Center (AIC) offer several imaging services including fluorescence, CT, MRI and more.

Included on this page is a chart describing pre-clinical imaging options, their advantages, disadvantages and uses.

For more information on our imaging technologies, facilities, pricing, scheduling or questions email the Clinical Veterinarian.


Imaging Modality

Radiation Spectrum


Main Advantages

Main Disadvantages

Cancer Research

In vivo possible?

Optical Bioluminescence Visible light 1 mm Highest sensitivity, low cost, easy. Low resolution, 2-D image, poor depth penetration,need genetically manipulated cells/animals. Usually used for molecular purposes and not anatomical imaging, poor penetration in visible wavelengths limits its use to subcutaneous tumors. Y
Optical Fluorescence Visible or near infrared 1 mm High sensitivity, multiple reporter wavelengths, low cost, easy. Low resolution, poor depth penetration, auto fluorescence can be problematic. Usually used for molecular purposes and not anatomical imaging, poor penetration in visible wavelengths limits its use to subcutaneous tumors, however, near-infra red imaging has increased the depth of penetration to several centimeters.  Used for imaging of specific protein expression in cancer and drug effects in vivo. Y
SPECT Lower Energy Gamma 1 - 2 mm Multiple probes simultaneously, moderate to high sensitivity, translational. Moderate resolution, radiation dose, lower sensitivity than PET. Usually used for molecular imaging of cancer specific ligands.  Potential future in drug delivery. Y
PET High Energy Gamma 1 -2 mm High sensitivity, quantitative, translational. Cyclotron needed, radiation dose is a factor. Used widely in clinical oncology thus easily translated to clinical applications.  Many cancers, especially brain and liver tumors can be imaged well with FDG.  Good for studying novel pathways as long as the compound can be conjugated to a radioisotope. Y
MRI Radiowaves 200 μm High spatial resolution, both functional and anatomic, targeted molecular contrast. Low sensitivity, long image acquisition time, highest instrument cost. Often used in brain tumor research.  Can detect small sized tumors.  Anti-body bound paramagnetic nanoparticles can be used to increase resolution and visualize molecular expression.  Should be combined with micro-PET or SPECT for molecular imaging. Y
X-ray computed tomography X-rays 25 μm Good anatomical imaging, high resolution - bone, tumor, vascular density and permeability. Limited soft tissue contrast, radiation dosage which likely affects the immune system, poor tissue contrast resolution. Most often used for anatomical imaging, ideal for bone imaging, use of contrast agents to study blood flow, often combined with micro-PET or SPECT. Y
Ultrasound High frequency sound 30 μm Real-time imaging (up to 1000 fps), portability, high spatial resolution, molecular targeting with bubbles. Limited imaging through bone or lungs, limited depth of penetration, images may be operator dependent. Quantify tumor size in 2 and 3 dimensions, look at blood flow, speed and direction, investigate drug cardiotoxicity, guide injections of drugs and cells, investigate real-time tissue perfusion and targeted imaging. Y

Last Updated: 8/25/16