New animal imaging system at UTHSC just 5th in world

Department of radiology faculty are excited about the newly acquired SPECT/CT instrument.

San Antonio (Nov. 6, 2003) – A newly acquired $410,000 SPECT/CT machine at The  University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) is just the fifth of  its  kind worldwide for obtaining super-high-resolution images of disease processes in rodents and other small animals, faculty researchers said. It is the first such  instrument  in the state of Texas.

The SPECT/CT machine enables investigators to examine both the function and  anatomy of biological systems. This is accomplished through physiologic single photon  tomographic imaging (SPECT) and CT scanning. “The SPECT imaging part of the  machine allows us to non-invasively track function, such as blood flow and drug  interaction and clearance, by using substances known as radiotracers,” said Beth Goins, Ph.D., associate professor of radiology at the UTHSC and a member of the department of radiology research committee that obtained the instrument. “These radiotracers include those routinely available in clinical nuclear medicine, such as technetium-99m (Tc-99m), and we also have expanded capability to perform very-high-resolution images with iodine-125 (I-125). I-125-labeled agents are widely available due to their use in radioimmunoassay. The CT part, meanwhile, functions like an X-ray machine but provides never-before-seen resolution for small animal images.”

The National Institutes of Health is putting strong emphasis on small animal imaging, said Gerald D. Dodd III, M.D., professor and chairman of radiology at the UTHSC. “Tools such as the one acquired by the department of radiology are enhancing studies of mouse models of disease, including cancer,” he said. “This unit complements the small animal PET system at the Health Science Center’s Research Imaging Center and will be available as a shared resource to all departments. Our department put up the funds to enhance the Health Science Center.”

The UTHSC is the third academic health institution to acquire a SPECT/CT machine from manufacturer Gamma Medica of Northridge, Calif. The others are the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

William T. (Bill) Phillips, Ph.D., professor of radiology and head of radiology’s molecular imaging and nanotechnology research section, is very proud of the team that has been assembled to facilitate research on this valuable instrument. “This team includes a recently recruited radiochemist, Dr. Zheng Jim Wang, who also has experience in small animal imaging, as well as Dr. Vibhudutta Awasthi, a pharmaceutical development specialist and radiopharmacist with small animal imaging experience, and Dr. Beth Goins, a lipid biochemist and liposome specialist with many years of experience in small animal imaging.”

Members of the department of radiology research committee are Drs. Goins, Phillips, Awasthi and Wang, and Drs. Geoff Clarke, Gary Fullerton, John Leyendecker, Julio Palmaz and Eugene Sprague.

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