Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an extremely versatile pre-clinical diagnostic technique. Besides morphological imaging MRI allows for functional and metabolic imaging in non-invasive longitudinal studies, aiming at both phenotyping or molecular imaging in mice, rats, guinea pigs, or mini pigs.<br>We perform longitudinal non-invasive imaging by MRI for research questions from all disciplines of biomedical research for example neurology, cardiology, oncology, hematology, immunology, infectiology, microbiology, musculoskeletal medicine, surgery, psychiatry, etc.

2D MRI of mouse legs (left) and 3D volume rendering of the tibiae (right)
MRI - A tool in pre-clinical research
With 3D spatial resolution approaching 10 µm in fixed specimens and 50 µm in vivo MR microscopy provides valuable information for phenotyping novel transgenic animals either in utero, during development, or following disease onset. Additional functional parameters such as cardiac volumes in models of heart disease or tumor tissue characterization in cancer models are readily available from standard measurement protocols. Cell tracking MRI allows for visualization of labeled tumor cells or grafted stem cells over a time course of several weeks. Morphological and functional data is complemented by metabolic information, which is available from MR spectroscopy measurements, providing metabolic data with sub-millimeter resolution.
Furthermore, fMRI is a valuable tool in neurophysiological research, detecting either the hemodynamic response of neural activity via the BOLD (blood oxygen level dependent) effect, or activity of Ca2+-channels via MEMRI (Manganese-enhanced MRI). Since fMRI is a non-invasive technique these data can be collected over a time course and compared to behavior experiments in the same animal.
Mouse MRI of the heart (left), brain (center), and lung/liver (right)
The core unit is equipped with a state-of-the-art small animal MRI system (Bruker Biospec 94/20), operating at a magnetic field strength of 9.4 tesla. Dedicated probes for mice and rats and high-performance microscopy gradient systems provide optimum preconditions for numerous applications. Installation of a CryoProbe (Helium-cooled detector) affords highest sensitivity for ultimate temporal of spatial resolution. For cardiac MRI and fMRI studies, ECG and transcutaneous blood gas monitoring devices are available. Most recently, we also offer the use of optogenetic tools and optical recordings during MRI investigations. For larger animal models such as mini pigs, the core unit uses a human 3 T scanner.

The core unit offers a number of routine protocols for high resolution morphological imaging, as well as protocols for functional parameters in cardiac, developmental or oncological models. Protocols for fMRI studies or cell tracking applications are devised on demand. MR spectroscopy protocols can be established in cooperation with the interested user. To allow for a wide range of applications, including infection models, the MR-system is installed in a S2-laboratory. We will assist you in regulatory issues concerning genetically modified organisms and in applying for licenses for animal experimentation.

Getting started
After the initial contact your research question will be discussed in the board of imagers. The MRI part will be designed according to your needs. Routine scanning protocols can be started right away (usually 6-8 weeks booking in advance is required) as soon as all regulatory issues have been settled (which may take several months). Scanning fees for routine measurements are available upon request. However, often research questions require more sophisticated methods. In that case, after agreement on a collaboration and definition of a research plan, we will develop the required methods. Please allow one to three months for method development. Scanning fees will be discussed individually, in view of the whole project.