The Research Imaging Facility (RIF) at the OU College of Pharmacy in Oklahoma City has major benefits, not only for its own researchers, but for researchers in the entire state of Oklahoma.
Its services include 1) assistance in the development of new PET and SPECT agents; 2) provide imaging solutions in biomedical research; 3) foster education in the field of nuclear pharmacy, and 4) enhance clinical nuclear pharmacy services.
The OU Research Imaging Facility, directed by Dr. Vibhudutta Awasthi, associate professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is also accessible to researchers in the University of Oklahoma at Norman (~20 miles south), Oklahoma State University at Stillwater (~65 miles north) and University of Oklahoma-Tulsa (120 miles east). It has the potential to fulfill the imaging needs of research investigators in the state of Oklahoma.
The OU Research Imaging Facility is equipped with a world-first Biomarker Generator, Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Computed Tomography, and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) machines.
The PET/CT system has a capability of acquiring both CT and PET imaging by using the same scanner bed. The ultimate result is tracing a marker within an anatomical model, which allows the researcher to record the effect of certain drugs.
The Single Photon Emission Tomography (SPECT) machine comes with dual detectors and a maximum resolution of less than 1 mm. Because of its high energy resolution, the NanoSPECT machine is capable of imaging multiple isotopes together, including I-125 radionuclide.
Remember when large computers filled entire rooms and needed a staff of technicians to run the machines? Similarly, up to now, radioactive biomarkers used in research had to be purchased from commercial cyclotron facilities, sometimes requiring several hours in transit. This posed an array of problems for researchers on the OUHSC campus.
These commercial cyclotrons fill large rooms and need multiple technicians to handle the radioactive doses. Commercial cyclotrons operate many hours in a day, mass-producing radioactivity.
In contrast, the Biomarker Generator supports PET imaging activities at the OU Research Imaging Facility. It has the capability to produce a single dose of a radioactive biomarker at the push of a button and is finished in about 30 minutes. It also takes up one-fifth the space of a commercial cyclotron.
Many researchers look at biomarkers as one of the most important links in making progress against diseases like cancer, diabetes and even neurological conditions. Currently, biomarkers are used with radioactivity and a PET scan to pinpoint where in the body disease may be present. This biomarker generator vastly improves the radioactivity step of the process, according to Dr. Awasthi.
In order to provide comprehensive services to the OUHSC investigators, the imaging equipment and Biomarker Generator are supported by unique nuclear medicine, imaging, radiochemistry and analytical expertise. The entire infrastructure is supported by an on-campus nuclear pharmacy operation that fulfills both research and clinical radioactivity needs within OUHSC. Radiolabeling services include development of radiolabeling methods suitable for specific projects and synthesis of radiolabeled compounds for conducting in vitro and in vivo studies.
The Research Imaging Facility at the OU College of Pharmacy will benefit a number of research initiatives in the current strategic plan of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, particularly in the areas of cancer and neuroscience. Both the OUHSC Cancer Institute and the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center have a number of basic and clinical investigators whose research is dependent on model imaging. The Research Imaging Facility will serve as a core facility for these and other researchers at the OUHSC and other research facilities in the region.
The College of Pharmacy has all of the necessary facilities for the purchasing and transportation of required radioisotopes through the OU Nuclear Pharmacy. Custom synthesis and/or formulation of novel radiopharmaceuticals are now available through the college research faculty and staff. Dr. Vibhudutta Awasthi, associate professor and director of the Research Imaging Facility, has extensive experience in pharmaceutics, radiochemistry and radionuclide imaging. Dr. Hariprasad Gali is a radiochemist with experience in the synthesis of both small molecules and macromolecules.