Molecular Imaging Network
The groups performing molecular imaging in animals and humans were independent research groups, thus the coordination among them and the potential users had to be improved. We established a novel organizational structure to foster collaborations among the molecular imaging groups, but more importantly, we proposed specific research projects that bring together clinical researchers and experts in experimental and clinical molecular imaging, encompassing the most important molecular imaging modalities, among them MRI and radiotracer technology, as well as optical imaging.
Comprehensive existing human and animal imaging platform
In clinical practice, CT, MRI, PET and SPECT are the most important molecular imaging modalities. Multimodal assessments are becoming increasingly important in research but also in clinical practice. A notable example is the combination of PET or SPECT and CT, which has practically replaced standalone PET. Combined PET or SPECT/CT is synergistic as CT provides anatomical information lacking on PET or SPECT images. Furthermore, CT provides a fast way to correct PET images for photon attenuation. Currently, the integration of PET and MRI is in development and an increasing number of imaging institutions now have a PET/MRI research system, either for small animal or human use. The University Hospital Zurich has several novel human PET/MRI system, consisting of separated PET/CT and MRI devices with a shared patient shuttle system and a true hybrid PET/MR system. Figure 1 summarizes the infrastructure of the proposed molecular imaging network. The core of the network consists of four imaging modalities, MRI, PET/SPECT, CT and FMT. There are also several related disciplines, providing either molecular probes (radiolabeled compounds or hyperpolarized compounds) or complementary molecular readouts (e.g. two-photon imaging or beta-probe). Several other facilities should also be mentioned, as they are of the utmost importance for the proposed network.