Animals In Synchrotrons: Overcoming Challenges For High-Resolution, Live, Small-Animal Imaging

Donnelley, Martin; Parsons, David; Morgan, Kaye; Siu, Karen
July 2010
AIP Conference Proceedings;7/23/2010, Vol. 1266 Issue 1, p30
Conference Proceeding
Physiological studies in small animals can be complicated, but the complexity is increased dramatically when performing live-animal synchrotron X-ray imaging studies. Our group has extensive experience in high-resolution live-animal imaging at the Japanese SPring-8 synchrotron, primarily examining airways in two-dimensions. These experiments normally image an area of 1.8 mm×1.2 mm at a pixel resolution of 0.45 μm and are performed with live, intact, anaesthetized mice. There are unique challenges in this experimental setting. Importantly, experiments must be performed in an isolated imaging hutch not specifically designed for small-animal imaging. This requires equipment adapted to remotely monitor animals, maintain their anesthesia, and deliver test substances while collecting images. The horizontal synchrotron X-ray beam has a fixed location and orientation that limits experimental flexibility. The extremely high resolution makes locating anatomical regions-of-interest slow and can result in a high radiation dose, and at this level of magnification small animal movements produce motion-artifacts that can render acquired images unusable. Here we describe our experimental techniques and how we have overcome several challenges involved in performing live mouse synchrotron imaging. Experiments have tested different mouse strains, with hairless strains minimizing overlying skin and hair artifacts. Different anesthetics have also be trialed due to the limited choices available at SPring-8. Tracheal-intubation methods have been refined and controlled-ventilation is now possible using a specialized small-animal ventilator. With appropriate animal restraint and respiratory-gating, motion-artifacts have been minimized. The animal orientation (supine vs. head-high) also appears to affect animal physiology, and can alter image quality. Our techniques and image quality at SPring-8 have dramatically improved and in the near future we plan to translate this experience to the Imaging and Medical Beamline at the Australian Synchrotron. Overcoming these challenges has permitted increasingly sophisticated imaging of animals with synchrotron X-rays, and we expect a bright future for these techniques.


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