Rationale for the Combination of Nuclear Medicine with Magnetic Resonance for Pre-clinical Imaging

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Multi-modality combinations of SPECT/CT and PET/CT have proven to be highly successful in the clinic and small animal SPECT/CT and PET/CT are becoming the norm in the research and drug development setting. However, the use of ionizing radiation from a high-resolution CT scanner is undesirable in any setting and particularly in small animal imaging (SAI), in laboratory experiments where it can result in radiation doses of sufficient magnitude that the experimental results can be influenced by the organism's response to radiation. The alternative use of magnetic resonance (MR) would offer a high-resolution, non-ionizing method for anatomical imaging of laboratory animals. MR brings considerably more than its 3D anatomical capability, especially regarding the imaging of laboratory animals. Dynamic MR imaging techniques can facilitate studies of perfusion, oxygenation, and diffusion amongst others. Further, MR spectroscopy can provide images that can be related to the concentration of endogenous molecules in vivo. MR imaging of injected contrast agents extends MR into the domain of molecular imaging. In combination with nuclear medicine (NM) SPECT and PET modalities in small animal imaging, MR would facilitate studies of dynamic processes such as biodistribution, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics. However, the detectors for nearly all PET and SPECT systems are still based on vacuum tube technology, namely: photomultiplier tubes (PMT's) in which the signal is generated by transporting electrons over a substantial distance within an evacuated glass tube, making them inoperable in even small magnetic fields. Thus the combination of SPECT or PET with MR has not been practical until the recent availability of semiconductor detectors such as silicon avalanche photodiodes (APD's) for PET and CdZnTe (CZT) detectors for SPECT coupled with the availability of high-density low noise ASIC electronics to read out the semiconductor detectors. The strong advantage of these technologies over PMT's is their insensitivity to magnetic fields which makes their use in co-axial multi-modality nuclear medicine/magnetic resonance instrumentation possible.

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