Small Animal Imaging Facility

Director: E. James (Jim) Delikatny, PhD

The Small Animal Imaging Facility (SAIF) is the Abramson Cancer Center's (ACC) Shared Resource that provides state-of-the-art instrumentation, renowned faculty and technical support staff with the expertise necessary to apply a broad range of imaging modalities to small animal models. The SAIF was formed in 2006 as an amalgamation of existing cores and equipment and has grown steadily in both available resources and usage since its founding. Supported modalities in the SAIF include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), ultrasound imaging, photoacoustic imaging and optical/bioluminescence imaging. The Facility is Directed by Dr. Jim Delikatny, who has more than 25 years of experience in small animal imaging.


Major Services

The goal of the SAIF is to provide ACC researchers access to a full range of advanced imaging modalities through a single portal. Through the SAIF, ACC members can routinely access longitudinal structural and functional imaging and spectroscopy to probe a wide range of molecular and cellular processes in small animals, tissue specimens, cell cultures and biologically derived fluids. The majority of the SAIF resources and staff are located in either of two large laboratories located on two sides of campus. The SAIF also operates a satellite lab located behind the barrier to facilitate study of severely immune suppressed NSG mice. Use of the SAIF has grown steadily since its inception and today it plays a critical role in the research programs for ACC members. Access to the SAIF and adjacent animal housing are obtained through application to the SAIF. SAIF staff work with PIs and investigators to design protocols and aid in regulatory issues to facilitate approval. If all IACUC regulations have been met, approval can usually be granted within 3-4 days of application. For new users, this is followed by a period of training after which users are signed off to operate the scanners. Experienced users can begin scheduling and performing scans immediately upon approval.

Numerous pieces of equipment were recently purchased. In 2016, Department of Radiology funds were leveraged to purchase an IVIS Lumina III (PerkinElmer), capable of fluorescent and bioluminescent imaging, including spectral unmixing for observation of multiple targets. In 2017, State of PA Tobacco Settlement funds via the ACC were used to purchase three instruments for the high energy imaging lab: U-CT (MILabs), beta-Cube PET, and X-Cube CT (Molecubes). The U-CT employs ultra-low X-ray doses to achieve spatial resolution of 30 μm. It has advanced capabilities, including dynamic contrast-enhanced CT, ultra-fast fluoroscopic imaging, virtual endoscopy, and cardiac and respiratory gating. The beta-Cube PET is equipped with monolithic scintillators, the latest photon counting technology and GPU-based event positioning. It is capable of achieving sub millimeter resolution for whole body mouse and rat imaging. The X-Cube CT is a high throughput low dose scanner for whole body rodent imaging capable of 50 μm resolution. The Cube systems employ an advanced animal handling platform facilitating generation of co-registered images. In 2018, Radiology and Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) funds were used to upgrade the 9.4 T horizontal bore MRI to an Advance III system (Bruker, Billerica, MA). The new system has upgraded capabilities from its predecessor with maintenance and service support into the foreseeable future. In 2019, funds from the Radiology Department and a PSOM Core Facilities grant were used to purchase a Curadel Flare system, a dual wavelength optical imaging system designed for fluorescence guided surgery.

Technologies and Equipment

The SAIF provides access and support for a broad array of advanced imaging instrumentation. Facility faculty and staff provide advice on experimental design, regulatory approval, data acquisition, data management, analysis and display, and small animal handling. This discussion occurs at the time of services request and is ongoing as needed. A deep commitment of the Shared Resource Directors is to ensure the optimal usage of SAIF services.

For more information, please visit the Core's website: