High Resolution X-ray Microscopy Using Digital Subtraction Angiography for Small Animal Functional Imaging
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Research using mice and rats has gained interest because they are robust test beds for clinical drug development and are used to elucidate disease etiologies. Blood vessel visualization and blood flow measurements are important anatomic and physiologic indicators to drug/disease stimuli or genetic modification. Cardio-pulmonary blood flow is an important indicator of heart and lung performance. Small animal functional imaging provides a way to measure physiologic changes minimally-invasively while the animal is alive, thereby allowing for multiple measurements in the same animal with little physiologic perturbation. Current methods of measuring cardio-pulmonary blood flow suffer from some or all of these limitations-they produce relative measurements, are limited to global or whole animal or organ regions, do not provide vasculature visualization, limited to a few or singular samples per animal, are not able to measure acute changes, or are very invasive or requires animal sacrifice. The focus of this work was the development of a small animal x-ray imaging system capable of minimally invasive real-time, high resolution vascular visualization, and cardio-pulmonary blood flow measurements in the live animal. The x-ray technique used was digital subtraction angiography (DSA). This technique is a particularly appealing approach because it is easy to use, can capture rapid physiological changes on a heart beat-to-beat basis, and provides anatomical and functional vasculature information. This DSA system is special because it was designed and implemented from the ground up to be optimized for small animal imaging and functional measurements. This system can perform: 1) minimally invasive in vivo blood flow measurements, 2) multiple measurements in the same animal in a rapid succession (every 30 seconds-a substantial improvement over singular measurements that require minutes to acquire by the Fick method), 3) very high resolution (up to 46 micron) vascular visualization, 4) quantitative blood flow measurements in absolute metrics (mL/min instead of arbitrary units or velocity) and relative blood volume dynamics from discrete ROIs, and 5) relative mean transit time dynamics on a pixel-by-pixel basis (100 µm x 100 µm). The end results are 1) anatomical vessel time course images showing the contrast agent flowing through the vasculature, 2) blood flow information of the live rat cardio-pulmonary system in absolute units and relative blood volume information at discrete ROIs of enhanced blood vessels, and 3) colormaps of relative transit time dynamics. This small animal optimized imaging system can be a useful tool in future studies to measure drug or disease modulated blood flow dynamics in the small animal.
Digital Subtraction Angiography
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