Optical Molecular Imaging and Analysis

The PTRU has at its disposal a wide array of imaging technology and expertise spread over multiple core facilities and shared resources across the Duke University Health System.

The Optical Molecular Imaging and AnalysisPran_1

The Optical Molecular Imaging and Analysis (OMIA) Shared Resource provides a variety of optical imaging services, technologies, equipment and expertise. Optical techniques have become an increasingly important tool for understanding molecular mechanisms of cancer development and therapy. Its high sensitivity and specificity enable elegant studies into gene regulation and functional processes involved in cancer progression and therapeutic response. The other key advantage of optical techniques is that they are non-invasive and relatively cost effective and so can be done serially in the same animal, allowing for better characterization of transient or dynamic effects and minimizing the overall use of animals. No other modality can provide all of these benefits.

The Optical Molecular Imaging and Analysis shared resource facilitates small animal imaging and spectroscopy. The services can be broken down broadly according to the categories below:

  •  Optical imaging and spectroscopy.
  • Window chamber surgery training and support.
  •  User training in techniques.
  • Scientific guidance on experimental design, data analysis and interpretation.
  •  CT imaging

PET/CT Molecular Imaging

The PTRU also has access to Duke’s state of the art Translational PET/CT Molecular Imaging Center.  FDG PET / CT is currently the “gold standard” tumor staging modality for the vast majority of patients with cancer. Prior to June of 2013, most patients in need of clinical FDG PET / CT were faced with the “coverage under evidence development” (CED) reimbursement issue posed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS, commonly known as Medicare). The translation of this scientific imaging modality into clinical standard of care required over 2 decades.

A major goal of this center is to facilitate the acceleration of scientific discovery into clinical practice. Small animal PET / CT allows in vivo physiologic and anatomic imaging in preclinical rodent models. Using high resolution positron emission tomography (PET), the Imaging Center is able to image biological processes co-registered with high resolution CT images. Quantitative, in vivo measurements of physiologic processes can be performed in longitudinal studies.  The Center’s Inveon PET / CT scanner allows for physiologic and anatomic imaging of mice and rats with a 1.4mm FWHM PET spatial resolution, and a 0.1 mm CT spatial resolution. This quantitative analysis can be performed on static, gated and dynamic data. The PER/CT services offers include:

Novel PET Radionuclide Discovery and Development

  • Molecular imaging to optimize drug development in pre-clinical models of disease
  • Interrogation of mechanisms of disease through imaging of dysfunctional pathways
  • Development and validation of novel molecular agents (nanoparticles, optical, CT, MRI, radionuclide, or a combination thereof) for diagnosis and therapy
  • Development and validation of quantitative imaging techniques prior to clinical use
  • Testing, development and validation of image acquisition and processing algorithms
  • Testing clinical hypotheses of disease in preclinical models
  • Quantifying disease progression at a molecular level.

In Vivo Microscopy


The Center for in Vivo Microscopy (CIVM) is a world class facility with numerous imaging systems, unique animal support and monitoring capabilities, visualization tools, and an advanced computer network. Since small animal imaging is so specialized, this integrated team has the skills to design and in some cases, manufacture a variety of novel imaging devices to meet the needs of themselves and their partners. Since the 1986, CIVM has developed into one of the most comprehensive small-animal imaging facilities in the world. Their experimental models include:

  • MR imaging
  • Micro x-ray
  • Micro – CT
  • Ultrasound
  • Confocal microscopy