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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anton Windfelder

Meeting Friends and Family at the #Nuklearmedizin 24 in Leipzig

Many thanks to @DrFrankHMller and Dr. Michael Hentschel for promoting our alternative animal model, Manduca sexta. Check out our Poster and our recent publication:

Insect larva as an Alternative Animal Model in Experimental Nuclear Medicine and Radiology



We established caterpillars of Manduca sexta as an alternative animal model in experimental radiology and nuclear medicine, addressing limitations associated with traditional mammalian models for imaging, such as cost, ethical considerations, and generation time. 



Manduca larvae were chosen for their physiological and immunological similarities to mammals, making them suitable models for investigating gut inflammation. The caterpillars were exposed to bacterial or chemical challenges to induce a colitis-like phenotype. Imaging modalities, including CT, MRI, FDG-PET were employed for disease detection. We also investigated the role of the NADPH dual oxidase (DUOX) in gut inflammation, a highly conserved gene between humans and Manduca, which is highly upregulated in patients with ulcerative colitis, allowing for comparative analysis. Finally, we evaluated Manduca as an alternative model for the in vivo testing of new contrast agents and tracers.



Our research demonstrates the feasibility of high-throughput imaging using CT, MRI and PET, to assess the severity and progression of gut inflammation in Manduca caterpillars. The imaging modalities successfully detect colitis-like phenotypes induced by bacterial or chemical treatments. The study revealed that DUOX activation led to a significant change in the gut microbiome and aberrant phenotypes, emphasizing its role in inflammation. Furthermore, we proved the usefulness of our model as an in vivo tool for the comprehensive testing of newly developed contrast agents or tracers.



Our approach demonstrated Manduca sexta as a highly efficient animal model for experimental radiology and nuclear medicine, showcasing a high-throughput screening platform that complements and replaces traditional mammalian models. It overcomes the limitations associated with mammalian models, providing a cost-effective, ethical, and rapid alternative for basic in vivo studies.





-Windfelder, A.G., Müller, F.H.H., Mc Larney, B. et al. High-throughput screening of caterpillars as a platform to study host–microbe interactions and enteric immunity. Nat Commun 13, 7216 (2022).


-Koshkina, O., Rheinberger, T., Flocke, V., Windfelder, A. G. et al. Biodegradable polyphosphoester micelles act as both background-free 31P magnetic resonance imaging agents and drug nanocarriers. Nat Commun 14, 4351 (2023).


-Windfelder, A. G., et al. "A quantitative micro-tomographic gut atlas of the lepidopteran model insect Manduca sexta." iScience 26.6 (2023).

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