The Advanced Imaging Research Center (AIRC) was initiated around a group of faculty with expertise in magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy, stable isotope tracers of metabolism, and MRI contrast agents. Given this history coupled with a strong desire to move these existing technologies toward clinical applications, the first new equipment included two human MR scanners. The 7 Tesla MR scanner, the only ultra-high field MR scanner in the entire Southwest, remains the centerpiece of the AIRC. Two 3 Tesla MRI scanners are heavily used by neuroscientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center, UT Dallas and UT Arlington for human functional and anatomical brain imaging.
Our molecular imaging program has expanded from MR contrast agents into novel targeted PET and SPECT agents and hyperpolarized agents for imaging metabolism in small animals. Our preclinical imaging equipment now includes SPECT, PET, three MRI/MRS scanners, and three dynamic nuclear polarization devices for creating hyperpolarized agents for metabolic imaging. A cyclotron for generating short-lived isotopes for tracing metabolic pathways, targeting tumors, and imaging common brain diseases was installed in 2014.
fMRI & Neuroscience at 3 Tesla
One of the main applications of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is to assess brain structure and function non-invasively. Using a 3 Tesla MR scanner, researchers can use MR technology to measure the size of the brain, detect potential tissue lesions, evaluate biochemical composition, determine biophysical properties, quantify blood supply to the brain, and probe electrical activity of the neuron. Investigators at the AIRC are working on the development and application of these novel MR technologies to understand how the brain works and how it changes with disease.
Learn more about human studies.
7T Human In Vivo Metabolism at 7 Tesla
Personalized patient care requires an understanding of specific disease processes in different individuals. Many techniques allow imaging of human anatomy but information about the underlying metabolic events is quite limited. Magnetic resonance methods provide detailed information about the chemicals and metabolites in human tissues; and for this reason, the development of advanced MR methods for understanding human physiology and disease using a 7 Tesla MR scanner is a high priority.
Learn more about human metabolism in vivo at 7 tesla.
Chemistry is the core science for development of new molecular imaging agents. The AIRC is fortunate to have more than 5,000 square feet of wet chemistry space. One large, open lab consists of 12 fully-equipped chemistry benches, 12 vacuum hoods, and 24 desks for students and technicians.
The Hyperpolarization Core at UT Southwestern is dedicated to the development of the fast dissolution dynamic nuclear polarization (fd-DNP) technique as a new imaging modality for understanding intermediary metabolism. To this end, the Core has commissioned three different DNP machines for these experiments including a commercial HyperSense polarizer (operating at 3.35 T) as well as two homebuilt 4.6 T polarizers. These systems are located in two separate labs, with one of the homebuilt systems located next to an Agilent 4.7 T animal imaging system and the other two sharing space with Agilent 14.1 T/51 mm high resolution spectroscopy and 9.4 T/89 mm microimaging systems. This Core provides instrument support for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) cooperative grant, “Metabolic imaging of Hyperpolarized 13C Substrates in Animal Models”, held in conjunction with Texas A&M and the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The Analytical NMR Spectroscopy Lab is occupied by three 600 MHz spectrometers, all 14.1 T/5.1 cm systems. All three are equipped with the Varian Direct Drive consoles and are otherwise state-of-the-art high resolution spectroscopy systems. One instrument is equipped with three RF channels with waveform generators. A variety of probes including 18mm broadband, 10mm broadband, 8mm three channel inverse detect, 5mm broadband, 3mm 2H optimized, 3mm broadband, and 3mm inverse detect probes are available and swappable between systems. Two instruments are equipped with a robotic sample changer.
The animal imaging facility offers state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) of rats, mice, and other smaller animals to all campus investigators. Animals can be delivered to the mouse core facility in the Bill and Rita Clements Advanced Medical Imaging Building (NE) on the North Campus, imaged under anesthesia, and returned to the investigator the same day. The system has the capabilities of anatomical and functional neuro, cardiac, musculoskeletal and abdominal (liver, kidney, uterus, etc.) imaging in vivo and ex-vivo. The facility includes a 7 and a 9.4 Tesla horizontal-bore magnet and various physiology monitoring systems including ECG, respiratory gating, and temperature monitoring and control throughout the imaging experiment. The facility also provides guidance for post-processing of image data and experimental planning for longitudinal studies.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Due to its capability of absolute imaging quantification and superior sensitivity, PET has also been recognized as the main driving force of molecular imaging in the understanding of disease mechanisms, and following progression and remission after therapeutic interventions. To date, PET imaging has become a standard-of-care tool for diagnosis, treatment planning, and therapeutic efficacy monitoring in cancer patients even though only one PET probe (FDG) is currently available from commercial sources for our patients. The Preclinical Nuclear Imaging Laboratory on the 3rd floor of the Clements Imaging Building is equipped with a state-of-the-art radiochemistry facility for the preparation of existing and novel PET probes and a Siemens Inveon PET-CT Multimodality Imaging System for varieties of PET research.
The SPECT/CT system is the BioScan NanoSPECT-CT Plus. It is a dual modality system for imaging mice and rats but can also image small rabbits. The system is capable of imaging a range of isotopes from the low energy of 125I to 111In, alone or in dual isotope acquisition mode. It is capable of high sensitivity submillimeter imaging, dynamic SPECT and gated cardiac SPECT imaging. An optional integrated animal handling system is available that provides a pathogen-free imaging environment.