Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Experimental Models

Anthony N. Price 1, *, King K. Cheung 1, 2, Jon O Cleary 1, 2, Adrienne E Campbell 1, 2, Johannes Riegler1, 3, Mark F Lythgoe1
1 UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging, Department of Medicine and UCL Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK
2 Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering, University College London, UK
3 Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology (CoMPLEX), University College London, UK

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© Price et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Paul O’Gorman Building 72 Huntley Street London WC1E 6DD United Kingdom; Tel: +44-207-679-6295; Fax: +44-207-905-2358; E-mail:


Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging is the modality of choice for clinical studies of the heart and vasculature, offering detailed images of both structure and function with high temporal resolution.

Small animals are increasingly used for genetic and translational research, in conjunction with models of common pathologies such as myocardial infarction. In all cases, effective methods for characterising a wide range of functional and anatomical parameters are crucial for robust studies.

CMR is the gold-standard for the non-invasive examination of these models, although physiological differences, such as rapid heart rate, make this a greater challenge than conventional clinical imaging. However, with the help of specialised magnetic resonance (MR) systems, novel gating strategies and optimised pulse sequences, high-quality images can be obtained in these animals despite their small size.

In this review, we provide an overview of the principal CMR techniques for small animals for example cine, angiography and perfusion imaging, which can provide measures such as ejection fraction, vessel anatomy and local blood flow, respectively. In combination with MR contrast agents, regional dysfunction in the heart can also be identified and assessed. We also discuss optimal methods for analysing CMR data, particularly the use of semi-automated tools for parameter measurement to reduce analysis time. Finally, we describe current and emerging methods for imaging the developing heart, aiding characterisation of congenital cardiovascular defects.

Advanced small animal CMR now offers an unparalleled range of cardiovascular assessments. Employing these methods should allow new insights into the structural, functional and molecular basis of the cardiovascular system.

Keywords:: Cardiac MRI, mouse, rat, cardiac phenotyping, experimental models..