Xenogen (Alameda, California) launched its IVIS 3D Imaging System, which it said is the first 3-D biophotonic imaging system, at the 4th annual meeting of the Society for Molecular Imaging (SMI; Kerrville, Texas) in Cologne, Germany, earlier this month.

The IVIS 3D Imaging System is "a camera that's capable of taking multiple view images" of what is taking place inside a live mouse for drug development and gene expression studies, the company said.

"If you think of an angle as being 360 degrees, and every 20 degrees a picture can be taken," Pamela Contag, PhD, president of Xenogen, told Diagnostics & Imaging Week. "Actually, you can set it for however many angles you want it to take, and the more angles you take, the more photonic data you collect ....and you collect all these pictures into one tomographic image."

The device allows researchers to use "real-time imaging to monitor and record cellular and genetic activity with-in a living organism," according to Xenogen.

Within the mice, the genes that are being studied, or the drug, are tagged with a fluorescent agent, and those agents light up the metabolic activity within the mouse, which can be seen with the imaging system's camera. For purposes of study, the mouse is anesthetized for the duration of the process, Contag said.

"The animal is usually one that has cells within it that glow or specific genes that glow," she said. "So, the biological process is emitting light. Our cameras can image that from outside the animal."

The device itself is like a box with a camera on top, Contag said. Within that box, there is a heated transparent platform, and the mouse lies on that platform while the platform rotates. And "through the camera and the mirror set-up, [the device] can take pictures of the light being emitted from the mouse at all the different angles."

The technology incorporates luciferase, the enzyme that makes fireflies and some bacteria glow, into the living animals, the company said. The camera is attached to a computer, and it is on that screen where the images are viewed.

"With the 3-D camera, you can actually take all of the different angles, put them into an algorithm .... which can track back to the source of the light and do a 3-D construction about what compartment in the animal that light is being emitted from," Contag said.

The capability to do such imaging studies is important in a number of areas, including drug discovery.

"The reason we're interested in 3-D imaging is that certain disease processes," for example, cancer, involves metastatic disease, she said. "Certain drugs may have a positive or negative interaction with those compartments. In other words, they can be toxic to a compartment, they can actually kill the tumor in a compartment, or .... a drug might not be able to enter a compartment because it can't cross the blood-brain barrier."

Researchers also can tell from viewing the image where the best target-drug interaction is located. For somebody who is researching a way to cure cancer, she said, that light would tell them "a lot about what kind of compound they should be developing. And if they already have a compound, what is the best indication for that drug."

Another area in which the camera could be used is in inflammatory disease, Contag said. "Inflammatory disease is really interesting because it plays a role in several different therapeutic areas: infectious disease, oncology, bone disease and arthritis."

Xenogen will be marketing the IVIS imaging system, which costs $295,000, through its direct sales force, she said.

One of its advantages, she said, is that it has a small footprint of about 2 feet by 3 feet, which includes the computer. "It can sit on every benchtop in every single laboratory," Contag said. "It's not a huge piece of equipment."

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