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Un-collimated single-photon imaging system for high-sensitivity small animal and plant imaging


In preclinical single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) system development the primary objective has been to improve spatial resolution by using novel parallel-hole or multi-pinhole collimator geometries. However, such high-resolution systems have relatively poor sensitivity (typically 0.01-0.1%). In contrast, a system that does not use collimators can achieve very high-sensitivity. Here we present a high-sensitivity un-collimated detector single-photon imaging (UCD-SPI) system for the imaging of both small animals and plants. This scanner consists of two thin, closely spaced, pixelated scintillator detectors that use NaI(Tl), CsI(Na), or BGO. The performance of the system has been characterized by measuring sensitivity, spatial resolution, linearity, detection limits, and uniformity. With (99m)Tc (140 keV) at the center of the field of view (20 mm scintillator separation), the sensitivity was measured to be 31.8% using the NaI(Tl) detectors and 40.2% with CsI(Na). The best spatial resolution (FWHM when the image formed as the geometric mean of the two detector heads, 20 mm scintillator separation) was 19.0 mm for NaI(Tl) and 11.9 mm for CsI(Na) at 140 keV, and 19.5 mm for BGO at 1116 keV, which is somewhat degraded compared to the cm-scale resolution obtained with only one detector head and a close source. The quantitative accuracy of the system's linearity is better than 2% with detection down to activity levels of 100 nCi. Two in vivo animal studies (a renal scan using (99m)Tc MAG-3 and a thyroid scan with (123)I) and one plant study (a (99m)TcO4(-) xylem transport study) highlight the unique capabilities of this UCD-SPI system. From the renal scan, we observe approximately a one thousand-fold increase in sensitivity compared to the Siemens Inveon SPECT/CT scanner. UCD-SPI is useful for many imaging tasks that do not require excellent spatial resolution, such as high-throughput screening applications, simple radiotracer uptake studies in tumor xenografts, dynamic studies where very good temporal resolution is critical, or in planta imaging of radioisotopes at low concentrations.

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