Our research focuses on the design, construction, development and application of MR-compatible SPECT instrumentation capable of simultaneous MRI and SPECT data acquisition.

          Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), like positron emission tomography (PET), is a powerful molecular imaging tool with demonstrated applications in neurology, cardiology, oncology, and more recently stem cell research. Through the use of highly specific radiolabeled molecular probes, SPECT can provide insight into a wide range of biological processes. However, its relatively poor spatial resolution can make unambiguous localization and quantification of the probes extremely difficult, especially when the images lack significant anatomical detail for reference.   In contrast to SPECT, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide exceptional high spatial resolution anatomical information, as well as localized chemical and physical information (i.e. metabolite concentrations, water diffusion characteristics). However, recently developed molecular probes using MR contrast agents have limited sensitivity compared to nuclear techniques (about 1:10,000).

          Merging SPECT and MRI in a synergistic manner would allow researchers to exploit the strengths of both techniques.   While the ability to perform simultaneous MR and SPECT imaging offers numerous advantages, its implementation presents several technological challenges. The radiation detector must function within an operating MRI scanner. Thus, conventional photomultiplier tube-based equipment cannot be utilized since they do not work in high magnetic fields. Likewise, the operating radiation detector must not significantly perturb the MR images. We are presently designing and testing such combined systems that utilize a MR-compatible cadmium-zinc-telluride (CZT) semiconductor-based radiation detector.