Saskatoon

New medical imaging tech for animals at vet college could also advance human cancer research: U of S

A new medical-imaging scanner at the University of Saskatchewan veterinary college has been described as a “game-changer” for animal health research that could also inform studies on human health.

$2.5M PET-CT scanner can help early detection of cancer, brain disorders, heart disease

There are hopes for the new $2.5 million PET-CT scanner at the University of Saskatchewan to facilitate more collaboration between veterinarian scientists and researchers in different fields of medical science. (CBC News)

A new medical-imaging scanner at the University of Saskatchewan veterinary college has been described as a "game-changer" for animal health research that could also inform studies on human health.

The PET-CT unit will be the first of its kind to be installed at a veterinary college in Canada and one of five at universities across North America.

The technology, which can help with early detection of cancer, brain disorders, heart disease and infections, was purchased using a $2.5 million donation from Alberta businesswoman Cathy Roozen.

Western College of Veterinary Medicine dean Douglas Freeman said the PET-CT will open the doors for collaborative research involving other on-campus medical colleges, such as the Saskatoon Cancer Centre.  

'It's huge'

"For instance, treating our animals with cancer becomes a model for potential new treatments for people with cancer," said Freeman at the veterinary college on Friday.

"So for our own clinical program and growing our diagnostics and treatments and things like cancer it's huge, but it's also a huge step forward for our 'translational research program' on campus."

The PET-CT unit is the first of its kind to be installed at a veterinary college in Canada. (CBC News)

According to the university, a PET-CT (positron emission tomography-computed tomography) scan combines the information available from the two types of scan.

A CT scan is a three-dimensional X-ray, while a PET scan delivers information about the metabolic activity in tissues.

"It's exactly the same technology they're using [on] humans. We have a PET-CT here in Saskatoon at the Royal University Hospital and we're actually in conversation with the health authority on ability to use this PET-CT facility for human diagnostics as well," said Freeman.

He added that it is beneficial for veterinary students to be familiar with advanced technology not only during their studies but when they are referring animal patients after they graduate.

Llama project part of research work

The new scanning equipment, titled the Allard-Roozen Imaging Suite, relies on the use of radioisotopes. It is located metres away from the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation, where short-lived radioisotopes are produced in the centre's cyclotron.

The university said in a news release that WCVM scientists are developing a technique called "biotracking" that will help them follow the path of certain molecules as they interact in the brains of llamas during induced ovulation.

Douglas Freeman, dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, outside the new Allard-Roozen Imaging Suite. (CBC News)

By viewing the movement of a specific chemical in the brain, reproductive physiologists can understand more about how ovulation works in the species, it said. 

According to the U of S, the technique is only possible through collaboration between scientists at the WCVM and the nearby cyclotron.

"We are so proud that we were able to accomplish everything here on campus. It's taken nearly seven years to put the whole team together," said Dr. Jaswant Singh, a reproductive physiologist and professor based at WCVM.

"This is the centrepiece that allows us to think very broadly and connect all the pieces together."

The suite was officially opened on June 7.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.