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International 3Rs Prize now open for applications. £30k prize (£2k personal award) for outstanding science with demonstrable 3Rs impacts.

NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science

Modelling radiobiology effects of X-rays in small laboratory animals to develop guidelines for preclinical computed tomography imaging

Headshot of Wendy Macdougald

At a glance

Award date
April 2020 - July 2022
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Wendy McDougald
University of Edinburgh


  • Reduction
  • Refinement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR



Why did we fund this fellowship?

This award aims to develop guidelines for small animal computer tomography (CT) imaging to minimise effects caused by high levels of X-ray doses, refining the use of animals in these procedures.

CT imaging is a non-invasive method used to monitor disease progression and response to drugs. The technique also enables longitudinal studies, reducing the number of animals required in a study overall. However, there are few guidelines available about the X-ray doses animals are exposed to during CT imaging, despite evidence that high levels of X-ray can cause DNA and cellular damage. This can be exacerbated by longitudinal studies, where animals are imaged at various timepoints increasing the risk of detrimental effects to the animals’ welfare. During her NC3Rs-funded PhD, Dr Wendy McDougald developed a 3D rodent “phantom” with tissue equivalent material to simulate specific organs and tissues. These phantoms were able to be used in place of animals to calibrate instruments and standardise PET/CT imaging protocols between preclinical research sites.

During this Fellowship, Wendy will use radiation simulation software to evaluate DNA damage caused by X-ray doses and assess the levels of cellular, single and double strand DNA damage. She will then use the previously developed imaging phantom in combination with nanoDots® to monitor the radiation levels animals are exposed to during preclinical research. The doses measured will be compared to the simulation parameters. Using this data, Wendy will develop guidelines to prevent overexposure to radiation during CT imaging. Wendy will develop skills in computer aided design, 3D printing and computational modelling.