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J Nucl Med. 2006 Jul;47(7):1181-6.

Semiautomated analysis of small-animal PET data.

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Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095-6942, USA.


The objective of the work reported here was to develop and test automated methods to calculate biodistribution of PET tracers using small-animal PET images.


After developing software that uses visually distinguishable organs and other landmarks on a scan to semiautomatically coregister a digital mouse phantom with a small-animal PET scan, we elastically transformed the phantom to conform to those landmarks in 9 simulated scans and in 18 actual PET scans acquired of 9 mice. Tracer concentrations were automatically calculated in 22 regions of interest (ROIs) reflecting the whole body and 21 individual organs. To assess the accuracy of this approach, we compared the software-measured activities in the ROIs of simulated PET scans with the known activities, and we compared the software-measured activities in the ROIs of real PET scans both with manually established ROI activities in original scan data and with actual radioactivity content in immediately harvested tissues of imaged animals.


PET/atlas coregistrations were successfully generated with minimal end-user input, allowing rapid quantification of 22 separate tissue ROIs. The simulated scan analysis found the method to be robust with respect to the overall size and shape of individual animal scans, with average activity values for all organs tested falling within the range of 98% +/- 3% of the organ activity measured in the unstretched phantom scan. Standardized uptake values (SUVs) measured from actual PET scans using this semiautomated method correlated reasonably well with radioactivity content measured in harvested organs (median r = 0.94) and compared favorably with conventional SUV correlations with harvested organ data (median r = 0.825).


A semiautomated analytic approach involving coregistration of scan-derived images with atlas-type images can be used in small-animal whole-body radiotracer studies to estimate radioactivity concentrations in organs. This approach is rapid and less labor intensive than are traditional methods, without diminishing overall accuracy. Such techniques have the possibility of saving time, effort, and the number of animals needed for such assessments.

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