MICA is housed in a custom-built facility with state-of-the-art equipment. The radiopharmacy has an on-site cyclotron (Siemens Eclipse HP 11MeV) , 10 different hot cell units (Veenstra synthesis modules, fastlabs GE), including multiple hot cells for automated tracer production and a fully-equiped QC lab (HPLC, automated gamma-counter, ...). GMP-certification of the facility is currently in progress.
The pre-clinical imaging lab involves an SPF animal facility with a capacity of up to 500 rodents. Pre-clinical imaging is performed on two preclinical PET/CT cameras (Siemens Inveon)and recently the lab was extended with the world’s first simultaneous PET/SPECT/CT small animal scanner (MILabs VECTor/CT) that allows to follow-up both on drug administration and on therapy outcome simultaneously.
In addition, the latest tools for ex vivo and in vitro analyses including IHC, HPLC, gamma counting and autoradiography are present, as well as a μradiotherapy irradiator system (x-RAD). In addition, an IVIS fluorescence camera is available for optical imaging (mainly in oncology research).
The preclinical imaging lab designs and runs all animal studies in close interaction with the MDs of the nuclear medicine group to assure clinical relevance and optimal tracer-pathology combinations. This allows our team to work from bench (molecule) to bedside (first-in-man). In relation to the latter, the clinical scanners are top notch integrated dual headed SPECT/CT and ToF PET/CT cameras.
Positron emission tomography (PET) detects pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by short-living radionuclides (tracer), which were previously introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule. Three-dimensional images of tracer concentration within the body are then constructed by computer analysis which is often complemented with simultaneous CT (X-ray) data. Radionuclides used in PET scanning are typically isotopes with short half-lives such as carbon-11 (~20 min), nitrogen-13 (~10 min), oxygen-15 (~2 min), and fluorine-18 (~110 min). These radionuclides can be incorporated into small molecules, peptides, proteins or specific antibodies. As such PET technology can be used to trace the biologic pathway of any compound in a living animal/patient. At present, the most commonly used radiotracer is fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), an analogue of glucose labeled with fluorine-18. A cyclotron and fully equipped hot cells infrastructure are available at the radio pharmacy of the University Hospital (UZA) enabling researchers to develop and validate new PET tracers.
Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) requires injection of a gamma-emitting radioisotope (tracer) into the bloodstream of the patient/animal. In contrast to radioisotopes used in PET, SPECT radionucleotides have typically longer half-lives making them a preferred choice for linking SPECT tracers with antibodies that require longer time to achieve a steady-state binding. A combined SPECT/PET/CT imaging system has recently been installed at the Molecular Imaging Center Antwerp to enable simultaneous multi label molecular imaging.