Insights into Bone Metabolism of Avian Embryos In Ovo Via 3D and 4D 18F-fluoride Positron Emission Tomography

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The chick embryo is a well-known economical in vivo model system and is widely applied in preclinical research, e.g., bone development studies. It is therefore surprising that no studies concerning the application of 18F-fluoride microPET to bone metabolism have been reported so far. This may be due to motion artifacts or the lack of convenient tracer injection sites.


We resolved the above problems using a combination of sample preparation, anesthesia, microPET imaging, and computational processing, and describe a convenient way of visualizing three- and four- dimensional features of bone metabolism in living chick embryos.


The application of 18F-fluoride microPET facilitates repeat measurements, highly reproducible and motion-artifact-free skeletal imaging, and provides quantitative measurements of in ovo metabolic activities in the bones of developing chick. During microPET measurement, radio tracer was injected intravascularly using a custom-made catheter system, allowing us to additionally investigate early time points in tracer kinetics and uptake.


Our results show that bone metabolism in living chick embryos can be reproducibly studied and quantified in ovo, even for multiple tracer injections over a longer time period. The use of dynamic 18F-fluoride microPET imaging made it possible to visualize and analyze even small bone structures with excellent quality. Moreover, as our data are comparable to data from corresponding rodent experiments, the use of embryonated chicken eggs is a convenient and economical alternative to other animal models.

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This work was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Health (BMBF; Grant Nos. 0314108 and 01KI1011D).

We are indebted to Brent Sørensen for proofreading the manuscript. We also thank Vera Klujewa for the excellent technical help.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Author information

Correspondence to Hans Peter Saluz.

Additional information

Lydia Würbach and Alexander Heidrich Contributed equally to this work.

Electronic Supplementary Material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Maximum intensity projections (MIP) of reconstructed microPET data from 55 time frames depicting the application, distribution, and uptake process of 18F-fluoride in the body and bones of a healthy chick embryo in ovo at day 18 of incubation (MPG 990 kb)

Supplemental Video 1

Maximum intensity projections (MIP) of reconstructed microPET data from 55 time frames depicting the application, distribution, and uptake process of 18F-fluoride in the body and bones of a healthy chick embryo in ovo at day 18 of incubation (MPG 990 kb)


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Würbach, L., Heidrich, A., Opfermann, T. et al. Insights into Bone Metabolism of Avian Embryos In Ovo Via 3D and 4D 18F-fluoride Positron Emission Tomography. Mol Imaging Biol 14, 688–698 (2012).

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Key words

  • 18F-fluoride
  • microPET
  • Bone metabolism
  • Avian embryo
  • In ovo