This is an application for funding for an advanced 15 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) system for studies of mice and other small animals, to be housed at Vanderbilt University. This device will be used by over 25 established investigators, many of whom are already expert in MR methods, in a variety of research applications and training programs. These research projects fall into 5 main categories: (1) Imaging science, the development of new and improved MR microscopic imaging methods at high field, and of a greater understanding of the nature of the new information provided, along with applications in mice: (2) Cancer, and the development and applications of MRI and MRS in the study of tumor biology in mouse models, including the development of imaging biomarkers to assess novel treatments for cancer: (3) Neuroscience, and the application of structural and functional MRI to studies of the architecture, metabolism and functional organization of the brain, especially the effects of specific genetic modifications and of novel pharmaceuticals: (4) Metabolic Disorders: the development and applications of advanced MRI and MRS methods to studies of metabolism and biochemistry in vivo, especially for mouse models of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders. These projects would require approximately 80% use of the instrument. The remaining time available would be available for exploratory research and new directions. Each of these projects will benefit from the advantages of imaging at very high field, including gains in signal to noise ratio (SNR), improved spatial resolution, greater spectral resolution and sensitivity for MRS, and greater sensitivity for detecting changes caused by specific contrast mechanisms. The gains in SNR will overcome some of the practical limitations on advanced applications in mice that have been encountered at lower fields. The scanner will be housed and managed within the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS), and would be a primary research resource for imaging scientists and trainees within the institute. The new instrument will be supported by an established group of MR imaging experts and support staff. The new 15T scanner would be a unique resource within the South East, serving research programs at Vanderbilt and at neighboring institutions including Meharry College, which serves large numbers of under-represented minority students and faculty. A comprehensive plan has been developed for the financial and technical support of the scanner as well as for its management and use.
Magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy are widely used to obtain novel information on the structure, composition, metabolism and physiological function of tissues and organs. When applied to small animals (particularly genetically modified mice) these insights can be combined with other types of information (such as genetic, biochemical and behavioral data) to better understand complex biological questions. For studies in mice, smaller sized but stronger magnets can be used to achieve dramatic improvements in image quality at finer spatial resolution, thereby providing greater information. This proposal aims to procure a very high field (15 Tesla) magnet and associated hardware specially designed for mouse studies to be able to push the performance of MRI and MRS in numerous applications in cancer, neuroscience and metabolic disorders. The development and sale of such cutting-edge MR instruments will help create and maintain positions for skilled scientists and engineers with the manufacturers of the instrument and its parts, as well as expand opportunities for imaging specialists in academic and pharmaceutical research. The system has been designed to have minimal environmental impact and the major parts will be recycled at the end of its useful life.
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