In August, research conducted by Yi-Gang Wang, PhD, associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine, was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
His team’s study found that applying a stem cell-infused patch, together with overexpression of a specific cell instruction molecule, promoted cell migration to damaged cardiac tissue following heart attack and resulted in improved function in animal models.
The tri-cell patch, made up of cardiomyocytes (to restore heart contractility), endothelial cells (to build new blood vessels) and embryonic fibroblasts (to provide support to the cell structure), was applied to the surface of the damaged area of the heart, resulting in better outcomes of overall heart function.
These findings could eventually lead to treatments that could restore cardiac function in patients who have experienced heart attack.
However, without the assistance of the Vontz Core Imaging Lab (VCIL), which provided the images and figures that supported data and helped visualize findings, this research wouldn’t have been possible.
The VCIL, a dedicated preclinical imaging center that is a shared core facility available to researchers within the College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and external investigators, officially opened in June 2010.
Since then, it has been offering non-invasive, micro computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET) and /single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging services, performed on some of the most advanced equipment available to any researcher affiliated with UC, including those at Cincinnati Children’s. Applications to use the facility for approved research protocols are welcome.
The VCIL is equipped with several multimodal systems tailored specifically for use in small animals and capable of 3D imaging and nuclear medicine techniques, including not only the micro CT, PET and SPECT services but also X-ray, fluorescence and bioluminescence.
Kati LaSance, director of the VCIL and research associate in the department of radiology, who manages the facility along with scientific advisors Mariano Fernandez, MD, and Edward Silberstein, MD, both from the department of radiology, imaging physicist Lisa Lemen, PhD, and CT physicist Zhihua "Jason” Qi, PhD, says the facility opens up possibilities to expand the biomedical research conducted at UC and Cincinnati Children’s from a lab model into a patient model.
"We’re applying the same imaging techniques used to diagnose human disease and scaling it down for use in small animals,” LaSance says.
The systems are also equipped with anesthesia and bio-monitoring tools to track vital signs during testing, allowing for continuous animal care and more precise imaging.
"The system allows us to capture multiple types of images without having to move the subject, and we can superimpose the different images, allowing researchers to see both the physiologic and anatomic data,” she adds. "It’s truly a great asset to the Academic Health Center, and it’s exciting to be part of such ground-breaking research.”
"Kati is very knowledgeable about CT, PET and SPECT and is truly an expert in this field,” says Wang. "She helps us improve our methods by acquiring vivid images for our experiments. With the CT expertise of Jason Qi, Kati created a new method to count the number of new vessel formations in our animal model after placement of the patch, and based on the remarkable performance of all of the VCIL staff and faculty, we successfully presented a 3D CT scan of these formations at the American Heart Association Scientific Meeting in 2011 and published images in our PLOS ONE article.
"Without the knowledge and help from Kati and the rest of the VCIL faculty, it would be impossible to achieve such success.”