Purpose: Our goal is to develop a small animal bioluminescent CT (BLCT) scanner to link genetic expression to structural/functional information available from X-ray CT/micro-CT, with the lung as the organ of initial interest.
Methods and Materials: A prototype BLCT system is designed and built, consisting of a highly sensitive CCD camera, a rotation stage, and a light-tight enclosure. We utilize bioluminescent bacteria and gene transfer vectors to generate signals. Via X-ray CT/micro-CT, we segment the thoracic structures of a mouse, and assign known optical properties to each class. Based on this prior knowledge, bioluminescent signals are iteratively processed to reconstruct the corresponding source distribution within the mouse.
Results: Numerical, experimental and in vivo mouse studies produce the first set of feasibility data for BLCT. These results demonstrate that sufficient light can be generated within a mouse, and detected outside the mouse from 360 degrees in either the conducting airways or the pulmonary acinus. The image resolution of the BLCT is evaluated in this pilot study. Fusion of X-ray CT/micro-CT and BLCT provides a non-invasive means of anatomically localizing genetic activities or regional bacterial viability in the lung.
Conclusion: The BLCT is a new modality for imaging at molecular and cellular levels, with X-ray CT/micro-CT as both the source of the prior knowledge for BLCT as well as the basis for evaluating the anatomic localization of molecular events. The development of a much improved version of the BLCT prototype is underway, using multiple CCD cameras for simultaneous measurment of bioluminescent signals.
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