Anne McLaren Small Animal Imaging Facility
The University of Cambridge set a strategic goal of combining the majority of its small animal facilities on campus into a single state-of-the-art unit which opened in 2019: the Anne McLaren Building (AMB). Within the Anne McLaren, 250 m2 has been set aside for preclinical imaging. The vision of the facility is to establish a new state-of-the-art in vivo imaging space which will provide both routine and cutting-edge tools for biomedical researchers across a wide range of disciplines and departments. The aim is to develop pre-clinical non-invasive whole animal imaging to exploit new technological advances, probe basic biological questions and to develop methods to be translated into humans use for the benefit of patients.
The proposed new facility will serve a dual purpose of providing a routine in vivo imaging service for a wide range of non-imaging researchers, as well as supporting the development of novel approaches by imaging researchers. Imaging technologies are increasingly required to provide non-invasive validation to support biological hypotheses: for example, to evaluate the longitudinal development of disease, to demonstrate in vivo spatial heterogeneity, to probe the response to treatment and to develop novel therapeutics. Access to these imaging technologies will enable methodological and translational research on a wide range of animal models of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, mitochondrial dysfunction as well as for new drug development.
The Anne McLaren imaging facility will also enable the development of novel imaging technologies for in vivo use in areas of medicine, biology, chemistry and physics. The University has a cyclotron close to the AMB site, which can provide short-lived PET radioisotopes for the development of new pre-clinical radiotracers. The equipment proposed here will facilitate the development of novel PET probes and MRI methods, as well as being used as gold standard tools for comparing novel imaging methodologies.
Repertoire of imaging tools
Imaging tools within the Anne McLaren facility include micro Positron Emission Tomography (mPET) and associated radiopharmacology, micro Computed Tomography (mCT), pre-clinical Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), multiphoton imaging, bioluminescent (IVIS) imaging, ultrasound and echocardiography.
The PET/CT system enables imaging of both structure and function in the same imaging session. The CT sub-system is used to improve the quantification and analysis of the PET data, as well as for CT-based applications, such as orthopaedic and musculoskeletal models of disease.
For a number of applications, such as in neuroscience, PET/CT images are combined with those obtained from the proposed MRI system to maximise information on in vivo processes. Importantly, there are a wide range of PET tracers available on site for applications across neuroscience, cardiology/ cardiovascular medicine and oncology, with the close proximity to the cyclotron enabling the use of short-lived radiotracers (labelled with carbon-11), and longer-lived tracers (labelled with fluorine-18, gallium-68 and zirconium-89).
A cryogen-free benchtop MRI system provides a platform for high throughput anatomical imaging across a broad range of disease processes, as well as providing measurements of metabolism with spectroscopy.
Identification of soft tissue contrast using MRI has widespread use in a large number of areas such as oncology, neurology and musculoskeletal imaging. Furthermore, dynamic MRI is a very powerful tool for cardiac imaging.
Spectroscopy has numerous applications in metabolic science, oncology and neuroscience. Importantly, a cryogen-free system is low maintenance and user-friendly that can be used by non-specialist researchers to undertake their required work after limited training.
There are two multiphoton cameras available for in vivo imaging. Multiphoton imaging allows deeper tissue penetration than confocal microscopy. It can be used to image tissue specimens ex vivo, as well as for intravital imaging of dynamic processes in vivo.
Interdisciplinary support across the university
The facility is open for all to use across the University. Please contact the named individual for the instrument you are interested in using.
Financial support has been provided by several departments/funding bodies as listed below, who have funded the PET/CT and MRI:
- University of Cambridge Resource Management Committee
- CRUK Cambridge Centre
- Alzheimer’s Research UK
- School of Clinical Medicine
- Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre
- Dept of Radiology
- Clinical Neurosciences
- Dept of Medicine
- Dept of Surgery
- Institute of Metabolic Sciences