The emergence of PET probes for amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, hallmarks of Alzheimer disease (AD), enables monitoring of pathology in AD mouse models. However, small-animal PET imaging is limited by coarse spatial resolution. We have installed a custom-fabricated PET insert into our small-animal MRI instrument and used PET/MRI hybrid imaging to define regions of amyloid vulnerability in 5xFAD mice. We compared fluorine-18 [18F]-Florbetapir uptake in the 5xFAD brain by dedicated small-animal PET/MRI and PET/CT to validate the quantitative measurement of PET/MRI. Next, we used PET/MRI to define uptake in six brain regions. As expected, uptake was comparable to wild-type in the cerebellum and elevated in the cortex and hippocampus, regions implicated in AD. Interestingly, uptake was highest in the thalamus, a region often overlooked in AD studies. Development of small-animal PET/MRI enables tracking of brain region-specific pathology in mouse models, which may prove invaluable to understanding AD progression and therapeutic development.
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