Whole animal imaging

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Syst Biol Med. 2010 Jul-Aug;2(4):398-421. doi: 10.1002/wsbm.71.


Translational research plays a vital role in understanding the underlying pathophysiology of human diseases, and hence development of new diagnostic and therapeutic options for their management. After creating an animal disease model, pathophysiologic changes and effects of a therapeutic intervention on them are often evaluated on the animals using immunohistologic or imaging techniques. In contrast to the immunohistologic techniques, the imaging techniques are noninvasive and hence can be used to investigate the whole animal, oftentimes in a single exam which provides opportunities to perform longitudinal studies and dynamic imaging of the same subject, and hence minimizes the experimental variability, requirement for the number of animals, and the time to perform a given experiment. Whole animal imaging can be performed by a number of techniques including x-ray computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound imaging, positron emission tomography, single photon emission computed tomography, fluorescence imaging, and bioluminescence imaging, among others. Individual imaging techniques provide different kinds of information regarding the structure, metabolism, and physiology of the animal. Each technique has its own strengths and weaknesses, and none serves every purpose of image acquisition from all regions of an animal. In this review, a broad overview of basic principles, available contrast mechanisms, applications, challenges, and future prospects of many imaging techniques employed for whole animal imaging is provided. Our main goal is to briefly describe the current state of art to researchers and advanced students with a strong background in the field of animal research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contrast Media
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Mice
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Ultrasonography / methods*
  • Whole Body Imaging*


  • Contrast Media