The instrument requested in this application is an ultra-high resolution microscopic computed tomography (microCT) scanner to evaluate 3-dimensional bone and soft tissue architecture from ex vivo specimens. This instrument, a Skyscan 1172 microCT scanner, is designed for en bloc imaging of bone for histomorphometry and determination of bone mineral density and bone mineral content. In addition, taking advantage of a unique method of microCT-based soft tissue Virtual Histology developed at our institution, one can image 3-dimensional structures of soft tissue for a wide variety of biomedical applications that include embryology, detection of micro-metastases in preclinical cancer models, and evaluation of neocapillaries during angiogenesis. None of the microCT equipment available in the South Texas region is capable of achieving the same resolution as the SkyScan 1172. Users who have attempted to collect data on the other instruments have been frustrated by the inability to capture data with sufficient detail and have therefore resorted to incurring the inconvenience and expense to send samples to commercial service providers. This situation is suboptimal due to that lack of biomedical expertise at the companies and the inability of the users to iteratively optimize scan parameters. Comparative tests of comparable systems for best spatial resolution, least noise, least artifacts, and best speed proved that the SkyScan 1172 was the most appropriate instrument to satisfy the needs of the UTHSCSA user community. As a shared resource for the UTHCSA campus, the SkyScan 1172 will be available to UTHSCSA investigators and partnering institutions throughout South Texas as a shared resource for the Institute for the Integration of Medicine and Science (NCRR CTSI, UL1 RR025767) as well as to academic investigators in other states. Immediately, the shared instrument would support 12 NIH grants as well as 10 other federally-funded regional and national grants however it is expected that a number of other research programs will take advantage of this system once it becomes available regionally. The development of microCT-based soft tissue Virtual Histology as a widely available application is considered a key innovation of this shared instrumentation grant.
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