A high-performance CT scan

August 29th 2019

The BioPark has recently acquired a new X-ray scanner for preclinical research. Installed at CMMI, the SkyScan 1276 can produce very high quality data.

X-ray scanners are the standard tool for osteoarticular imaging. With injections of contrast agents, they can also produce images of blood vessels and organs such as the liver or spleen. Until now, CMMI had a PET-CT system that allowed it to perform X-ray scans of animals. ‘Our new micro-CT(1) offers much better performance!’ explains Gaetan Van Simaeys, a physicist engineer in medical imaging at Hôpital Erasme and a member of CMMI’s NUMIX team(2). ‘The image resolution is ten times higher. Details are visible down to a few micrometres, while the resolution of previous equipment was 60 micrometres. Images are produced three to four times faster. In addition, animals are subjected to much lower amounts of radiation, measured in real time. This allows us to perform multiple scans for longitudinal studies, without risking unwanted secondary effects due to irradiation.’

Synchronisation with physiological movements

The SkyScan 1276 is equipped with a physiological monitoring module that can reconstruct the movements of the heart and lungs. ‘A camera identifies breathing movements in real time’, continues Gaetan Van Simaeys. ‘On top of this, an electrocardiograph records cardiac activity. This lets us isolate images taken at specific stages of the respiratory or cardiac cycle.’ Such a feature is very useful to study new drugs against pulmonary or cardiac pathologies.

‘Smart’ and fast reconstruction

The presence of a metal object in the small animal being scanned (pin in a bone defect, implant, etc.) alters the images produced by the scanner. The SkyScan 1276 mitigates this issue by allowing users to adjust the parameters of image acquisition and reconstruction. ‘With the proper filters for image acquisition and algorithmic modelling for reconstruction, information can be recovered in selected areas’, says Gaetan.

Image registration and a variety of services

The SkyScan 1276 can be used on one mouse or rat at a time. It will be soon fitted with an adapter that will enable its compatibility with PET and SPECT nuclear imaging systems, or with the preclinical MRI equipment available at CMMI, allowing researchers to register images from multiple devices.
The NUMIX team also collaborates with CER Groupe. Through their partnership, they intend to develop a rich offer of in vivo imaging services that meets the needs of researchers, from producing animal models to quantitative data analysis.

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(1) The acquisition of this CT scanner was made possible by the ERDF programme and the Walloon region.
(2) CMMI’s Nuclear and Molecular Imaging by X-rays’ (NUMIX) team is backed by the nuclear imaging department at ULB-CUB Hôpital Erasme.