Small animal PET imaging

Gary D. Hutchins, Michael A. Miller, Victor C. Soon, Timothy Receveur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Positron emission tomography (PET) is well established as an important research and clinical molecular imaging modality. Although the size differences between humans and rodents create formidable challenges for the application of PET imaging in small animals, advances in technology over the past several years have enabled the translation of this imaging modality to preclinical applications. In this article we discuss the basic principles of PET instrumentation and radiopharmaceuticals, and examine the key factors responsible for the qualitative and quantitative imaging capabilities of small animal PET systems. We describe the criteria that PET imaging agents must meet, and provide examples of small animal PET imaging to give the reader a broad perspective on the capabilities and limitations of this evolving technology. A crucial driver for future advances in PET imaging is the availability of molecular imaging probes labeled with positron-emitting radionuclides. The strong translational science potential of small animal and human PET holds great promise to dramatically advance our understanding of human disease. The assessment of molecular and functional processes using imaging agents as either direct or surrogate biomarkers will ultimately enable the characterization of disease expression in individual patients and thus facilitate tailored treatment plans that can be monitored for their effectiveness in each subject.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-65
Number of pages12
JournalILAR Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 11 2012


  • Positron emission tomography
  • Radiopharma-ceuticals
  • Sensitivity
  • Small animal
  • Small animal pet
  • Spatial resolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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  • Cite this

    Hutchins, G. D., Miller, M. A., Soon, V. C., & Receveur, T. (2012). Small animal PET imaging. ILAR Journal, 53(1), 54-65.