It was just another quiet morning on campus Thursday. Except for the 25,000-pound piece of technology being lowered into the ground, that is. Though the cargo a 70-ton crane was moving quickly disappeared out of sight for curious 16th Street onlookers, its final resting place ensures that it will soon help Indiana University School of Medicine remain on the cutting edge of Alzheimer’s disease research.
This new imaging technology, which is one of only two in the world, is now in possession of executive Director for Stark Neurosciences Research Institute (SNRI), Bruce T. Lamb, PhD Lamb and Paul R. Territo, PhD, of IU School of Medicine, along with Gareth Howell, PhD, and Gregory Carter, PhD, from The Jackson Laboratory, were recently awarded a competitive $25 million grant from the National Institute of Aging. This grant, which is the only grant of its kind, is aimed at developing highly predictive mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and testing novel therapeutics in them. The availability of high quality and validated models is essential to speeding the development of new treatments.
To date, success rates in clinical trials of Alzheimer’s disease drugs after testing in animal models have been disappointing, with more than 99 percent of all compounds failing to meet clinical endpoints. To bridge this gap, models that more closely mimic the disease in humans would allow for better drug testing and permit more accurate predictions of which ones will be effective in the clinical population
The advent of cutting-edge brain imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), has advanced research in Alzheimer’s disease over the past three decades. A particularly innovative element of the grant that Lamb and Territo lead, involves utilization of state-of-the-art transnational PET/MRI imaging on newly created mouse models, which will allow for compound evaluation in disease-relevant models that are directly comparable to human disease states.
Lamb watches as the crane lifts the new equipment into the air before lowering it to its new home.
Territo, director of the Stark Neurosciences Research Imaging Center, in conjunction with Lamb and Gary Hutchins, PhD, have led the effort to acquire the new instrument for the IU School of Medicine. Territo said he believes this new technology will not only transform the ongoing Stark program for Alzheimer’s research, but will provide a valuable resource for all investigators who are studying neurological diseases which require simultaneous high resolution PET/MRI. This technology, which is not available anywhere else in North America, will continue to help researchers take their work to the next level.
Here are five things Territo would like to share about this very special, and massive, piece of equipment.
What is the equipment’s official name? Bruker BioSpec 9.4T/30 MRI with PET Insert and it weighs about 25,000 pounds.
What does it do? This instrument provides simultaneous high-field MRI and PET imaging, similar to clinical instruments, but is specifically engineered for applications on small animals, like mice and rats. Ordinarily, to do this it would require separate imaging sessions on different instruments. This approach, if not done correctly, can result in study-related bias that may make interpretations challenging. By collecting functional MRI and PET images at the same time, this instrument will be able to leverage the key strengths of each modality to map disease progression and therapeutic response in model systems.
What does it mean for Stark to be in possession of the only system in North America? The acquisition of this state-of-the-art PET/MRI technology will permit investigators within SNRI, and IU School of Medicine, an unprecedented opportunity to perform imaging which is on the cutting edge of neuroscience research. Moreover, this technology, when combined with traditional techniques, permits researchers with a mechanism to study disease progression and therapeutic response in a way which were not previously available, thus leading to new insights and discoveries in neurologic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
What are other uses for the equipment? The equipment can be used for all the same structural and functional methods currently being developed in clinical settings, which permit excellent translation of models and techniques, while not sacrificing sensitivity, resolution, or image quality. In short, the equipment promises to provide a mechanism that collects data not previously permitted by separate MRI and PET systems.
How much does equipment like this cost? According to Bruker, the company that builds this instrument, the system costs between $6-8 million, depending on configurations, coils and equipment.
The equipment was funded in part with a gift from Dave and Susan Roberts, who also established an endowed faculty fund, known as a chair, that is held by Lamb and supports his research.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Having joined IU School of Medicine in 2016, Sonder uses a poetry and theatre background to help bridge the academic world with the creative. A graduate of University of Evansville, he works with faculty and academic staff to formulate unique, marketing ideas that engage the public with innovative research at IU School of Medicine. From writing stories on groundbreaking equipment to orchestrating digital marketing strategies, Sonder collaborates with experts across the school to help departments thrive in their marketing and communication ambitions.