4 reasons to start with preclinical imaging

Published on 03 Mar 2022

1. An ethical and animal friendly research approach

Preclinical imaging is in many ways more ethical and animal friendly compared to other techniques and is in line with the 3Rs principle. First of all, preclinical imaging Replaces and Refines conventional invasive experimental techniques that sacrifice animals or require samples. Thanks to their non-invasive nature, preclinical molecular imaging techniques like PET and SPECT can provide insights into the concentration of compounds in organs like for example the liver, kidneys, brain, or a tumor. Secondly, there is no need to sacrifice a large amount of animals over time, as preclinical imaging allows you to monitor a single animal along multiple time points during the course of an experiment, thereby significantly Reducing the total number of animals used in a study. 

2. A holistic in vivo view on anatomical and molecular processes

Preclinical imaging provides new insights that you can not derive from individual techniques. Unlike other research techniques, molecular imaging enables you to generate a complete, three dimensional in vivo picture of a living laboratory animal, along different moments in time in a non-invasive manner, thus providing real time results. It allows you to study complex kinetic processes and it builds the bridge between discoveries at the molecular level and clinical implementation in diagnostics or therapeutics. Knowing the role of a molecule in vitro doesn’t automatically result in the understanding of its role and molecular interactions in vivo. Preclinical imaging provides a unique opportunity to study disease on a molecular level, monitor disease progression and also to evaluate treatment response in a non-invasive and often quantitative manner. It provides real time results that don’t require sacrificing animals to evaluate the status of the disease or treatment.

3. Increased statistical power for your preclinical study

Preclinical imaging allows serial (longitudinal) follow up of animal models. This allows monitoring of disease progression from inception to progression, as well as treatment schemes over time. This monitoring can yield fully quantitative results (e.g. tumor mass and volume, tracer uptake in brain, liver, etc.). Each animal serves as its own control, reducing biovariability. The statistical power of imaging data is thus much higher compared to inter-individual comparison by excluding inter-animal variability, as each animal serves as its own control. The sets of imaging data and their quantitative outputs can significantly speed up the time towards a publication, and increase the odds of a successful investigational new drug application (IND) or clinical trial application (CTA).

4. Valuable insights for a broad range of application fields 

Preclinical imaging is being used in a wide variety of application fields, especially in oncology, neurology, cardiology and drug discovery and development, among others. In oncology research, it can for example provide insights into the tumor mass and volume, number and location of metastasis, hypoxia, glucose metabolism, tumor angiogenesis, etc. In brain imaging, it can provide insights in the density of receptors and transporters, drug occupancy studies, or cerebral blood flow. In drug discovery and development, it allows preclinical validation of drug targeting and it can be used as a screening technique for new compounds.