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Molecular Imaging for Bio-medical Research with Mice

Molecular Imaging

Researchers at the Department of Energys Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) are collaborating with the College of William and Mary on the implementation of a detector system ideally suited for biomedical research with live small animals.

A detector system developed by the collaboration is being used and optimized for detection of the emission of iodine-125. Iodine-125 is the isotope that can be used with certain molecular biology techniques to probe for certain gene products in a live animal. The ability to image gene expression in live animals provides a valuable tool for molecular biology and disease research.


Current gene expression techniques take snapshots of the state of expression of the gene of interest. In order to get an actual measurement of the animals state of expression of the gene of interest, for instance in the brain, the animals life must be terminated. The technology developed by the collaboration offers neural scientists and physicians the opportunity to understand neural processes in real-time and over an extended period of time allowing for more complete study of the genetic processes.

Iodine-125 is unique because of the fact that commercially available gene probes already exist for this isotope. The iodine labeled probe attaches to the gene marker of interest and the gamma and x-rays emitted from the isotope decay process are used to image the gene product to millimeter resolution.

Current Status

The detector system is presently being upgraded to allow for three dimensional imaging of the labeled molecules in a live mouse by using a medical imaging technique called Single Photon Emission Computer Tomography.


Research was done in collaboration with the Department of Biology at the College of William and Mary which obtained a grant from NSF and with the support of the Department of Energys Division of Nuclear Physics.

Time record of accumulation of iodine in a live mouse