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Spring 2010, Issue 11

In Vivo Animal Imaging, Model Design, and Development

The Small Animal Imaging/Tumor Biology Facility of Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center provides state-of-the-art equipment and expertise for anatomical and molecular imaging in live animals. Interacting closely with the Animal Pathology Core and the Tufts Medical Center Transgenic Core, the Small Animal Imaging/Tumor Biology Facility offers a range of services for studying normal and disease processes and for testing therapeutics in live animals. “I think of it as a translational animal study core where imaging can be used to study almost any process in an animal if you design the right model,” says Gary Sahagian, PhD, director of the facility. “It’s about studying disease in animals and taking advantage of the power of imaging to study disease processes more effectively.”

Major instrumentation includes a Caliper/Xenogen IVIS 200 biophotonic imager, a VisualSonics Vevo 2100 ultrasound imaging system with injection and biopsy capability, and a Leica MZ-FLIII stereo fluorescence microscope with visible and near IR imaging capability. A tissue/cell culture room and technical services are also available.

Cells that have been tagged with bioluminescent or fluorescent reporters can be followed as they proliferate in or move through a living animal over time. Bioluminescent reporters emit light when they are “turned on” by a specific substrate. Fluorescent reporters glow with a specific color when they are subjected to light. The reporters can be cloned into cancer cells, stem cells, or other cells of interest, or introduced into animals using transgenic techniques. “Our optical imaging equipment can detect and quantitate very low levels of light emitted from sources deep within the animal,” says Sahagian. “We can look at the animal while it’s alive and follow the intensity and location of light that is being emitted. We can put drugs in and determine their effects. Do we inhibit cell proliferation or movement? Is gene expression being altered? The possibilities are limitless.” The facility offers advice on model development and it can develop models for the investigator collaboratively or on a fee-for-service basis.

The facility provides a number of services for cancer investigators, including anatomical imaging of tumor growth, angiogenesis and necrosis using the ultrasound imager, and development and testing of imageable models for analysis of tumor growth and metastasis. Animal models currently available to users include the 4T1 syngeneic breast cancer model and the MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 human breast cancer xenograft models.

Fees for instrument use and other services can be found on the facility website. The facility is open to academic investigators inside and outside of Tufts, and to biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Instrument use generally requires technical assistance from the facility technician or manager; exceptions include use of the fluorescence microscope and the tissue culture room, which are available for unassisted use by qualified individuals. In addition, qualified users may be able to obtain certification to operate the Xenogen and VisualSonics instruments themselves at a reduced cost.

The Small Animal Imaging/Tumor Biology Facility is maintained by the Department of Physiology at Tufts University School of Medicine with support from the school of medicine and Tufts Medical Center. The facility is directed by Gary Sahagian, PhD, who can be reached at (617) 636-6748 and gary.sahagian@tufts.edu, and managed by Min Fang, PhD, who can be contacted at min.fang@tufts.edu to schedule instrument and technician time. The facility is located in Room 815A of the Stearns Building and is accessible from 136 Harrison Avenue via the M&V or Stearns elevators.

For more information, please go to http://www2.healthsci.tufts.edu/saif.



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