Major Research Instrumentation (MRI): Acquisition of a molecular imaging instrument for dynamic material and biological systems

Grant: CBET - 0922539
Award Amount: $1,770,910
PI: S. Boppart, D. Spillman, L. Schook, C. Werth, S. White
Start Date: September 1, 2009
End Date: August 31, 2013
The NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program catalyzes new knowledge and discoveries by empowering scientists and engineers with state-of-the-art research instrumentation.  The MRI Program enables research-intensive learning environments that promote the development of a diverse workforce and next generation instrumentation, as well as facilitates academic/private sector partnerships.
The UIUC proposal addressed a broad-based campus need for the acquisition of molecular (nuclear) imaging capabilities.  A team of faculty from five main research areas, along with several supporting areas, was assembled to provide the necessary expertise and represent novel growth areas in the physical and biological sciences.
The acquisition and use of the molecular imaging instrument enabled new research directions and educational opportunities and programs that significantly contributed to the intellectual base of knowledge in these disparate but unified areas at the national and international level.
The five research areas included:
1.  Monitoring dynamic chemical reactions within advanced self-healing materials
2.  Tracking nanoparticle biodistribution and visualizing their incorporation into the physiological processes of living organisms over time
3.  Following the homing pathways of stem cells and their functional significance
4.  Investigating metabolomics to understand the biological and physiological basis of nutrition
5.  Monitoring the dynamic three-dimensional distributions of materials, chemicals, and microbes in environmental samples
The acquisition of the molecular imaging instrument not only enabled the rapid expansion of existing research programs, but also provided the opportunity for new directions of investigation.  Researchers acquired a microPET/SPECT/CT instrument along with the required accompanying cyclotron and radiolabel laboratory equipment from Siemens USA.  The instrument and supporting laboratory facility is located in the basement of the Beckman Institute, where it joined other shared imaging resources in MRI, optical and electron microscopy, and x-ray computed tomography.  The proximity of the biological resource facility (vivarium) in the basement of the Beckman Institute facilitates the use of small animals for nuclear imaging studies. The instrument is managed as a shared resource under the organizational structure of the Biomedical Imaging Center.