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Published March 6, 2006 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

Imaging of gene expression in vivo with photoacoustic tomography


In the post-genomic era, there is an increasing interest in visualizing the expression of functional genes in vivo. With the assistance of the reporter gene technique, various imaging modalities have been adopted for this purpose. In vivo gene expression imaging promises to provide biologists with a powerful tool for deepening our understanding of developmental biology, expanding our knowledge of the genetic basis of disease, and advancing the development of medicine. In this paper, we demonstrate the feasibility of imaging gene expression with photoacoustic imaging, which offers unique absorption contrast with ultrasonic resolution in vivo. We mark tumors in rats with the lacZ reporter gene. The lacZ gene encodes an enzyme β-galactosidase, which yields a dark blue product when acting on a colorimetric assay called X-gal. Photoacoustic tomography at 650nm clearly visualizes the presence of this blue product. The spectroscopic method can also potentially improve specificity. Considering how many staining methods are used in traditional biology, we believe that photoacoustic techniques will revolutionize the field of molecular imaging. The further development of reporter gene systems with high absorbing products in the NIR region is needed.

Additional Information

© 2006 Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). We are grateful to Sergio Similache, and Ovidiu Craciun for assistance with animal handling. This research is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health grants R01 N846214 (BRP) and R01 EB000712.

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