Mouse imaging services

Mouse imaging services

Preclinical imaging systems are essential for accurate measurements of tumor growth, metastasis formation, and therapy response in mouse models of human cancer. For this purpose, a dedicated Imaging Unit within the NKI animal facility is available to researchers interested in incorporating imaging into their studies. The imaging unit consists of an imaging suite of both functional and anatomical imaging for the purpose of in vivo imaging in mice. The systems available in the imaging unit are small animal versions of similar devices available in the clinic for the purpose of translational research.

The imaging unit can help you start treatment at the right moment, measure therapy response, get psychological information about your tumor model, look at the blood brain barrier, get great images for publications and presentations, do translational research and much more.


The MCCA Imaging Unit offers a full service package for researchers interested in incorporating imaging into their research. The services offered consist of the following:

Nuclear imaging
Radiotracers are obtained through the nuclear medicine department. Depending on the tracer, either PET/CT or SPECT/CT can be used.
High resolution MRI
The 7T MRI provides high resolution imaging of the brain, tumor, abdomen, and other parts of the mouse body. The MRI also measure tumor characteristics through diffusion, perfusion, and spectroscopy.
Multimodal imaging
In addition to PET/CT and SPECT/CT, it is possible to have registered PET/MRI data via the multimodal bed. The multimodal bed allows for transfer between the PET/CT and 1T MRI without moving the mouse.
Advanced analysis
In addition to imaging acquisitions, the MCCA Imaging Unit offers analysis solutions for researchers. A suite of advanced analysis software is available to provide the most comprehensive analysis of images for all the imaging modalities available at NKI.


The imaging unit consists of an imaging suite of both functional and anatomical imaging for the purpose of in vivo imaging in mice. The systems available in the imaging unit are small animal versions of similar devices available in the clinic for the purpose of translational research.

Brüker Biospec 7T MRI
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful medical imaging modality that can provide anatomical and physiological information using strong magnetic fields and radiofrequency waves to manipulate the nuclear spin. Anatomical images can be formed through T1 and T2 weighted imaging, and contrast agents can be used to distinguish tumors from surrounding tissue. Physiological information can also be determined with techniques such as diffusion, perfusion, and angiography. Moreover, relative metabolite concentrations can be determined through spectroscopy. For these reasons, MRI is one of the most useful cancer imaging modalities.
Albira PET/CT
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a type of nuclear imaging where functional information is ascertained via the injection of positron-emitting radiotracers. PET is often combined with computed tomography (CT), which provides a 3D anatomical correlation using x-rays. Together, PET/CT can be used to accurately and precisely locate tumors through the detection of high uptake of the injected radiotracer. The most commonly used tracer is 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which is taken up by highly energetic tissues, such as tumors. Other commonly used tracers include 68Ga-DOTATATE, which aids in the detection of neuroendocrine tumors by binding to somatostatin receptors, and 18F-choline, which can detect quickly proliferating cells such as tumors that take up choline for the generation of phospholipids in the cell membrane. Due to the abundance of radiotracers available, PET/CT is a primary detection method for several types of tumors and metastases.
PerkinElmer IVIS Spectrum
Optical imaging is a highly useful imaging modality for cancer research, which is used for bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging. Bioluminescence imaging is often performed via the incorporation of the luciferase protein into tumor cells that are subsequently injected into a laboratory mouse. By injecting D-luciferin, light is produced and tumor growth can be tracked by the intensity of the light. Fluorescence imaging can be likewise useful in tumor monitoring via the incorporation of fluorescent markers in the tumor cells or the injection of fluorescent dyes.
Single positron emission tomography (SPECT) is another type of nuclear imaging, which generates images via the detection of gamma-emitting radiotracers. The most commonly used SPECT isotope is 99mTc, which is often labelled with methylene diphosphonate in order to detect bone metastases. There are numerous SPECT radiotracers available, which can be used for a variety of techniques, such as bone scans, myocardial perfusion, and radiotherapy.
Brüker ICON 1T MRI
Low field Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is useful for basic anatomical correlation of nuclear medicine. CT is already incorporated into the PET and SPECT systems, but has limited soft tissue contrast. A multimodal bed is available to provide registered PET/CT and MRI data.

Example images made at the NKI

7T MRI: T2W, perfusion and T1 with and without contrast of brain tumor
T2W: Quick scan that is great for pathology and tumor measurements
T1 pre contrast
T1 post contrast: great for anatomy and to see if the blood brain barrier is open.
Perfusion: To asses the blood flow into the tumor over time.
7T MRI: Spectroscopy of a brain tumor
With spectroscopy you can get an overview of the metabolites in a voxel to compare between tumor and healthy tissue for example.
7T MRI: T2W of Esophagus
T2W: To illustrate that with high resolution MRI you can image small structures and their change over time.
7T MRI: T2W and T1 of Lung tumor
T2W and T1 scans give different information to detect lung tumors in an early stage to decide when to start treatment.
7T MRI: T2W of liver tumors
Liver tumors are easily recognizable as lighter spots in T2W scans. MRI is great for tracking tumors to see therapy response.
7T MRI: T2W and Apparent Diffusion Coefficient of Subcutaneous tumor
T2W image of a subcutaneous tumor, great way to see heterogeneity and necrosis.
The ADC map shows the diffusion in the same tumor and can give insights in tumor characterization and drug response.
With our multimodal bed we can combine PET/MRI/CT to detect metastasis.
This animal was injected with a bone tracer (yellow/red) and a CT scan (grey) was made.
The IVIS system is a great way to quickly screen many animals for tumors.

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