New imaging lab expanding, exceeding goals

After just a year, the Core Imaging Facility for Small Animals has exceeded even its own expectations.

“We’ve blown revenue through the roof,” said Research Manager Chris Middleton. Under the direction of Dr. Nathan Yanasak, the facility has brought in 82 percent more revenue than was expected – and, at the same time, has saved researchers even more money, Middleton said.

Imaging is an inexpensive and increasingly necessary part of research. Prior to the establishment of the facility, researchers had to compete for campus resources or go off-campus to get the data and analysis they needed.

This year, they have performed work for 14 research groups and contributed data for nine grant applications.

“We are something that the research community has clamored for, having an imaging facility that researchers from different disciplines can use,” Middleton said.

The imaging lab combines magnetic resonance imaging and bio-luminescent/fluorescent optical imaging capabilities in a way that allows researchers a level of sensitivity, such as subtle chemical changes in soft tissue, that was previously unavailable on campus.

“We can prepare tissue to adjust image contrast in different ways,  so that you can see something as  specific as flow of protons,” Yanasak said.

Imaging provides non-invasive, pain-free, nonlethal methods of tracking disease progression.

“We can look into the heart and see not only if there’s an infarction but the extent of the infarction. In the brain, we can see a lesion, but also if blood is flowing to the lesion and whether or not the lesion is healing,” Middleton said.

And they can also provide specialized time-saving techniques to help quantify what images show.

“We can tailor data software for particular projects that we recognize will have value to large groups of The recent addition of Rajeshree Joshi, a research associate with a computer science background, was intended to expand these capabilities as well as to improve workflow.

Previously, imaging services on-campus were limited to bench-top techniques such as microscopy, while other services were isolated at facilities such as the VA hospital.  But the cost and convenience of an on-campus option has driven the lab’s workflow to expand quickly.

These kinds of images have writing and attached research. So the imaging staff sits down with the researchers and works out a plan to provide images that will give them the best chance to secure grants and publish papers.

Some of the principal investigators who have included the imaging facility as a component to their grant submissions include:

  • Dr. Adviye Ergul on her $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health
  • Krishnan Dhandapani on two of his multimillion grants from the Department of Defense
  • Dr. Autumn Schumacher on her $404,250 NIH grant

“We work with a lot of people who are doing some great cutting edge things and we’re helping them to move forward,” Middleton said.

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