Canadian device manufacturer, ART has launched a new optical imaging system, the eXplore Optix MX2, that has been designed to characterise, quantify and visualise cellular and molecular events in living animals using fluorescent probes. The company claims that the instrument is the most sensitive fluorescent optical imager available on the market allowing the detection of signals at lower concentrations that come from deeper inside small animal models. "As customers in the drug discovery and development process continue to demand tools for a deeper level of analysis, we are providing them with an optical imaging system which sets new benchmarks for sensitivity, while ensuring reliability and performance for applications requiring longitudinal studies," said Sebastien Gignac, CEO of ART. Optical imaging of fluorescent marker probes attached to drug candidates has been widely shown to provide valuable information about the specificity and efficacy of potential drugs with high cost and time efficiency. The eXplore Optix instrument uses time-domain florescence imaging to generate a 3D map of the distribution of fluorescent probes. Time-domain fluorescence uses pulsed laser diodes to send short pulses of very near infrared light into the body to excite the fluorescent probes attached to drug candidates. The time of flight distribution data works like a sonar detector, enabling the determination of the depth of the probes. Near infrared light penetrates deepest into the body and can identify fluorophores at a depth of approximately 2.5cm. "We can help advance discovery faster through the adoption of ART´s time-domain technology among industrial and academic researchers in the preclinical phases of drug development," said Gignac. The instrument also measures the fluorescence lifetime which allows the probes in different biochemical environments to be identified and the intensity of the signals quantified. This differentiation occurs because various environments can quench the fluorescence of a probe and shorten the lifetime of the signal. Bundled with the imager is a new software package, CT fusion, which allows researchers to export scan data so that it can be fused with micro-CT for a full 3D anatomical reference. ART has signed a new distribution agreement with GE Healthcare for the worldwide distribution of the instrument except in North America, where ART retains the exclusive distribution rights. "I believe this arrangement will offer the right conditions for a more effective commercialization of the eXplore Optix product", said Gignac. According to a spokesperson for GE Healthcare, the ART technology completes the company's fluorescence imaging research offering by plugging the gap between GE's cell analysers and PET (positron emission tomography) instruments. "It gives us an opportunity to provide fluorescent imaging instruments to pharma customers right from the very early stages of drug discovery through to clinical trials," he said.