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Preclinical PET/SPECT/CT - a core facility at the Faculty of Health Science


Instruments and facilities

The Scanner

Isotopes and contrast agents

Ex vivo and in vitro validation methods

Procedures for in vivo scanning

Project planning

Practical matters

Submission of an application

Expected response on the application



Molecular imaging has increasing significance in basic and applied preclinical research. Positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission tomography (SPECT) are today the two most important techniques to visualize metabolic, physiological and functional information on a molecular level in vivo. Superimposed computed tomography (CT) data allows for anatomical localization. The Helse Nord RHF, The University Hospital of North Norway (UNN) and The University of Tromsø (UiT) have recently invested in the first preclinical PET/SPECT/CT trimodality imaging system in Norway. 

The Preclinical PET/SPECT/CT unit is a core facility organized under Institute for clinical medicine (IKM) at UiT. The aims of the facility is to provide opportunities for in vivo small animal imaging with PET, SPECT and CT. Access to perform experiments is open for all researchers at UNN/UiT by application. 

Instruments and facilities

The Scanner

The preclinical PET/SPECT/CT scanner is housed in a temporary location at the Unit of Comparative Medicine (UCM) at UiT. Once the PET-centre is build, the equipment will be moved into a dedicated laboratory. 

The scanner is a TriumphTM II PET/SPECT/CT (Trifoil Imaging Inc, Northridge, CA, US), with the three imaging modalities in a single unit. The gantry opening is 15 cm which allows scanning of small rodents, guinea pigs and rabbits. The spatial resolution is ~1 mm for PET, 0.5-1.6 mm for SPECT (collimator dependent), and 0.1 mm for CT. The system has advanced software for image fusion and analysis of both static and dynamic image data. The scanner weighs 1200 kg and produces 7,2 kW of heat.


Isotopes and contrast agents

The following list shows examples of PET and SPECT tracers and CT contrast agents that may be implemented for in vivo scanning at the core facility, as well as examples of their applications. Please note that other isotopes, pharmaceuticals and contrast agents than those listed here, for both PET, SPECT and CT, may be ordered by researchers upon request. 








Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)

Oncology, neurology, cardiology





Hydroxydiphosphonate (HDP)

Lung & bone perfusion

Microaggregated albulin (MAA)

Lung perfusion

Mercaptoacetyltriglycine (MAG3)

Kidney perfusion

Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA)

Kidney perfusion

Diethylene Triamine Pentacaetic Acid (DTPA)

Kidney perfusion

Methoxyisobutylisonitrile (MIBI)

Myocardial perfusion. Detection of parathyroid adenoma, estimation of drug efflux

Exametazime (CERETEC)

Cerebral perfusion

Pertechnetate (free)

Evaluation of thyroid diseases


Ioflupane (DaTSCAN)

Diagnosis of Parkinson's disease




Detection of carcinoid and other types of tumors




Iodine based contrast agent for CT


Ex vivo and in vitro validation methods

Due to the limited spatial resolution of PET and SPECT, it is necessary to validate results from preclinical in vivo scans with higher resolution methods ex vivo and in vitro. Supporting equipment for these experiments (well counter, cryostat microtome, autoradiography) is available at the core facility.


Procedures for in vivo scanning

Preclinical in vivo PET and SPECT scanning requires intravenous injection of a radioactive isotope into the animal. The staff at UCM has the knowledge and procedures for anaesthetising animals with isoflurane, preparing and injecting radioactive isotopes, performing PET, SPECT and CT scans, and reconstructing and analysing the image data. Isotopes produced for clinical SPECT at UNN, are used for preclinical SPECT (99mTc). The production of many PET isotopes requires a cyclotron, which will be housed in the planned PET-center in Tromsø. Until then, isotopes delivered from Finland for clinical PET studies at UNN, are used for preclinical PET (18F). 

The following services can be offered from the staff at UCM:

  • Planning and preparing an in vivo PET/SPECT/CT project.
  • Anaesthetising animals with isoflurane
  • Preparing and injecting radioactive isotopes
  • Performing PET, SPECT and CT scans
  • Reconstructing and analysing static or dynamic image data
  • Kinetic modelling of dynamic image data
  • Planning and performing ex vivo / in vitro studies
    • Multicellular Tumour Spheroid (MTS)
    • In vitro frozen section autoradiography
    • Ex vivo Biodistribution / organ distribution

PET/CT of a healthy mouse. 30 MBq 18F fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). 1h prescan injection. Uptake in heart, kidneys. Visualize dead/hibernated regions due to heart infarction/ischemia.



SPECT/CT of a healthy mouse. 33 MBq 99mTc hydroxydiphosphonate (HDP). 1 mm multipinhole collimator. 35 mm ROR. Uptake in bone and lung. Visualize blood perfusion in lung and regeneration of the skeleton.


SPECT/CT of a healthy mouse. 30 MBq 99mTc macroaggregated albumin (MAA). Uptake in lungs. Visualize blood perfusion in lung.


SPECT/CT of a healthy mouse. 30 MBq 99mTc (free/unbound). 1 mm multipinhole collimator. 35 mm ROR, Uptake in thyroid. Differentiate between pathology in thyroid, (e.g. Graves´ disease, thyroiditis, thyroid cancer).



Project planning

Preclinical PET/SPECT/CT might be a valuable tool for your research project. You are very welcome to discuss collaboration possibilities with us. 

Practical matters

  • Before an in vivo study can start up, it has to be approved by the Norwegian National Animal Research Authority. More information
  • The equipment has substantial running costs, and requires careful calibration in order to produce reliable and valid results. Therefore we need to charge an amount per experiment to cover. However, in the startup period, until further notice, these running costs are free to the end user.
  • Isotopes produced for clinical SPECT at UNN, are used for preclinical SPECT (99mTc).
  • The production of most PET isotopes requires a cyclotron, which will be housed in the planned PET-center in Tromsø. Until then, only 18F fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) delivered from Finland for clinical PET studies at UNN, can be used for preclinical PET. Currently, deliveries are scheduled only one day per week, three to four weeks per month. Because of the short half life of 18F, PET-studies are currently limited to this one day per week.
  • Isotope costs for PET and SPECT are currently free of charge to the end user. Please note however that pharmaceutical costs for SPECT may have to be charged the researcher, depending on the type and size of study. If in doubt, please contact us before submitting the application.
  • The steering committee for the Preclincial PET Core Facility can provide advice and assistance regarding project design in the early planning phase and the committee is also responsible for reviewing and accepting project plans (ses below)


Submission of a project plan

An electronic application should be sent to samuel.kuttner@uit.no It should contain the following information:

  • Name and affiliation of Principal Investigator
  • Name and affiliation of other researchers and staff that will take part in the project
  • Type of project (Pilot or full study)
  • Project description
  • Tracers to be used for PET or SPECT or contrast agents for CT.
  • Number and type of animals to be scanned.
  • Scanning interval for longitudinal studies on the same animal.
  • How will results be measured/quantfied?
  • Planned in vitro/ex vivo methods to validate the results


An email will be sent to confirm the receipt of the project plan submission. The project proposal will be evaluated by our research team within two weeks. Based on the current situation at our facility, such as availability of ligands, machine time, aspects of practical implementation, and the research focus of the unit, the proposal can be rejected, accepted but only for pilot study, or accepted for full implementation. Rejected proposals can be resubmitted if new information is available. Comments/suggestion will be provided to our best knowledge in the decision letter. 

Application for permission to conduct research on animals (søknad for dyreforsøk) has to be approved by the research animal authority before detailed planning and execution of in vivo experiments. This process might take time and varies with individual project. We recommend to file the application as early as possible. In order to proceed with the planning of the project, you will have to submit a copy of the approval letter from the animal research authority.

Agreements to perform a pilot study or a full experimental study will be accompanied by a contract for payment of running costs, as well as agreements with regard to practical aspects of the collecting and analysing the data, as well as a data ownership agreement. 

Accepted applications will be scheduled for experiments only after the signed agreement is received. Practical implementation will be arranged in collaboration with medical physicist Samuel Kuttner.




Preclinical PET/SPECT/CT related inquiries



Small animal related inquiries



General preclinical research related inquiries



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Last updated: 24.04.2018 08:10