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Lab, Field, and Clinic
June 1, 2005

MRI Reveals Gene Activity In Vivo

JAMA. 2005;293(21):2584. doi:10.1001/jama.293.21.2584

Gene therapy research has been stymied by unanswered questions about whether the therapeutic genes are integrated into the DNA of the targeted cells and whether the desired gene products are being produced. But scientists at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa) may help researchers answer these questions with a new technique that uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create high resolution images of in vivo gene expression deep in the body’s tissues.

The technique, which has so far been tested on mouse models, was recently published in Nature Medicine (NatMed. 2005; 11:450-454). Designed for use in preclinical research on gene therapy or studies with transgenic animals, this noninvasive technique could be applied to fields as varied as cancer research, neuroscience, and pharmacology, said Eric T. Ahrens, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. It might also one day be applied to humans—although Ahern said the immediate applications are strictly preclinical.

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