"This study demonstrates the feasibility of monitoring microbial infections in living animals in real time," says study leader David A. Leib, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and of molecular microbiology. "The technique enables us to follow an infection over time as it progresses and resolves, and we can do this repeatedly using the same animal."
This technology may solve several problems in studying herpes infections and the genes that control them. To investigate the progress of an infection over a course of days, for example, researchers normally must sacrifice infected mice each day and analyze their tissues to determine the level of virus present. The process is further complicated by the fact that individual mice respond differently to infection.
"One must make a leap of faith that a mouse sacrificed on day three of an infection is responding to the virus in the same way as a mouse sacrificed on day two of the infection," says Leib.
This new technology, an imaging method known as in vivo bioluminescence, enables investigators to track changes in the viral population in the same animal day after day. The device is located in the Molecular Imaging Center at the University's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology.
"This technology can be used to explore questions about this virus that are possible only by studying entire living animals over time," says Gary D. Luker, M.D., an assistant professor of radiology with the Molecular Imaging Center and first author of the paper.