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Imaging of dopamine transporters in rats using high-resolution pinhole single-photon emission tomography.

Booij, J., de Bruin, K., Habraken, J.B.A. and Voorn, P.

European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, 29(9), 1221-1224 (2002).

To date, the vast majority of investigations on the dopaminergic system in small animals have been in vitro studies. In comparison with in vitro studies, single-photon emission tomography (SPET) or positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the dopaminergic system in small animals has the advantage of permitting repeated studies within the same group of animals. Dopamine transporter imaging is a valuable non-invasive tool with which to investigate the integrity of dopaminergic neurons. The purpose of this study was to investigate the feasibility of assessing dopamine transporter density semiquantitatively in rats using a recently developed high-resolution pinhole SPET system. This system was built exclusively for imaging of small animals. In this unique single-pinhole system, the animal rotates instead of the collimated detector. The system has proven to have a high spatial resolution. We performed SPET imaging with [I-123]FP-CIT to quantify striatal dopamine transporters in rat brain. In all seven studied control rats, symmetrical striatal binding to dopamine transporters was seen 2 h after injection of the radiotracer, with striatal-to-cerebellar binding ratios of approximately 3.5. In addition, test/retest variability of the striatal-to-cerebellar binding ratios was studied and found to be 14.5%. Finally, in unilaterally 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats, striatal binding was only visible on the non-lesioned side. Quantitative analysis revealed that striatal-to-cerebellar SPET ratios were significantly lower on the lesioned (mean binding ratio 2.2 +/- 0.2) than on the non-lesioncd (mean ratio 3.1 +/- 0.4) side. The preliminary results of this study indicate that semi-quantitative assessment of striatal dopamine transporter density using our recently developed high-resolution single-pinhole SPET system is feasible in living rat brain.