The Molecular Imaging Center images small animals with MRI, CT, CT-SPECT, bioluminescence, fluorescence, MicroPET scans, some of which can be combined in multi-modality scans. The Center has image analysis software and produces custom imaging agents. The core offers training so investigators can perform their own experiments, or the core can perform the analyses.

Note that data from different modalities has been combined in many of the examples shown here.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

  • Tumor imaging and sizing.
  • Cardiac imaging
  • 31P NMR non-localized spectroscopy
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Fat water imaging

Data obtained at UVa


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Bioluminescence / Fluorescence Imaging

  • Reporter gene imaging such as Firefly luciferase (bioluminescence) and near infrared fluorescent protein (fluorescence).
  • Fluorescent dye imaging using targeted imaging agents.

Monitoring effects of drugs on tumor growth using luminescence of expressed luciferase

bioluminescence and mri imaging of bladder cancer cells in a mouse

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Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

  • Fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) imaging of areas of hypermetabolic activity.
  • Fluoride ion (18F-) bone imaging.
  • Imaging of labeled targeted agents, e.g. 64Cu-fMLP 18F labeled small molecules
  • 18F fluorothymidine
  • 13N ammonia
  • Isotopes available from PETNET are 18F, 11C, 13N, 15O
CT and PET imaging of Klebsiella induced inflammation

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Ultrasound imaging

  • visualization and sizing of tumor
  • measuring blood flow in organs and tumors
  • observing biomarkers of inflammation, tumor neovasculature, ischemia
  • monitoring microbubble contrast agents

More applications and operational details on ultrasound page.

A: grayscale (anatomy) image of tumor mass
B: contrast image of non-targeted microbubbles after 6-minute dwell time
C: contrast US image of adherent scVEGF-microbubbles


Production of short lived PET isotopes 11C, 13N, and 15O, gamma isotopes 67Ga, 123I, and 111In and 165Er, some of which are used in biomarkers synthesized on site.

Chemistry Lab for Production of Custom Imaging Agents

  • Production of radiometal, (64Cu, 99mTc, 111In) and radioiodine labeled peptides and antibodies
  • Custom-synthesis of 18F and radioiodine labeled small molecules.
  • Custom-development of molecule-targeting MRI contrast agents.
  • Development of molecular imaging agents for non-invasive fluorescent imaging

Radiolabeled biomarkers

Synthesis of tracking agents incorporating 11C and 18F

Image Processing

  • FindTags software to calculate cardiac circumferential shortening and regional strain maps.
  • Vitrea for volume rendering, 3 dimensional reconstructions, fly-throughs of 3D data sets.
  • Argus cardiac analysis package (Siemens Medical Systems, Iselin, NJ).