Researchers get a dog ready for PET/CT scan.

University of Missouri investigators researching humans, animals and plant health can access powerful tools at MU’s PET Imaging Center housed at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Open since 2017, the advanced technology core facility has a combination positron tomography (PET) scanner that uses nuclear medicine radiotracers to reveal how organs and tissues are functioning and a computed tomography (CT) scanner that produces images of the anatomy inside the body. Using this PET/CT system improves accuracy and speed in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and provides new capabilities for plant science researchers.

“The system gives you a combination of anatomic and functional imaging,” said center director Jeffrey Bryan, professor of veterinary oncology and associate director of comparative oncology at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. “You can use that combination to follow metabolic processes in almost any living system.”

What distinguishes the PET Imaging Center from other research cores?
The center is one of only a few in the country with a PET/CT system for large animals like dogs, cats, pigs and rabbits. Researchers can study in real time metabolic pathways in cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions in live animal models or those with naturally occurring diseases.

MU is a national leader in comparative medicine, where interdisciplinary scientists use similarities between humans and other species to understand biological processes and develop therapies benefitting both. For example, Bryan is involved in an industry-sponsored clinical study testing a new PET radiotracer product for early cancer detection in dogs. If successful, the product also could be used in human patients.

In addition to testing the effectiveness of new diagnostics and treatments, researchers can use the core for longitudinal studies where multiple images of subjects are needed over the course of a disease.

How are researchers using the core in their research?

  • Bhanu Telugu, associate professor of animal sciences, is studying a potential new cancer model in pigs.
  • David Mendoza-Cózatl, associate professor of plant sciences, is looking at the interaction between plant roots and soil.
  • Bryan is working with another industry partner in a clinical trial to determine the dosimetry of a newly invented radioactive glass microsphere for liver cancer tumors in companion dogs.
  • Joan Coates, professor of veterinary neurology and neurosurgery, evaluated the deterioration of the central nervous system in dogs with degenerative myelopathy, which is similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease in humans.

How do researchers request PET Center services?
Bryan said investigators should get in touch with the center to explore their options, even if they are unsure whether it will be possible to capture a specific metabolic process for their research. His team can work with chemists at MU’s Molecular Imaging and Theranostics Center to build a new radiotracer or assemble a known tracer and then assist investigators in testing the tracer in their preferred animal model.

To get started, email him at or PET facility manager Joni Lunceford at