AMRC Core Director: Brian Finck, PhD

AMRC Associate Director: Clay Semenkovich, MD

AMRC Assistant Director: Rita Brookheart, PhD

AMRC Metabolic Imaging Sub-Core Director: Kooresh Shoghi, PhD

AMRC Lab Manager: Sangeeta Adak, PhD
Phone: 314-747-8282


Wet lab space (600 square feet) designated for the Animal Model Research Core (AMRC) is located on the 8th floor of the Southwest Tower Building and can be reached by most NORC members by a short 5 to 10 minute walk through adjoining hallways and a 2nd floor pedestrian link that connects major research buildings. Here, mouse and tissue phenotyping is conducted.  In the Clinical Science Research Building, 1100 square feet is dedicated to whole body composition by MRI, indirect calorimetry by TSE Phenomaster/Labmaster System, and treadmill exercise studies. PET/CT and PET/MR are located on the 1st floor of the East Imaging Building.  This facility is 2820 square feet and contains all the instrumentation required for substrate uptake and metabolism and exosome biodistribution, animal housing for radioactive material (RAM) decay, image-analysis stations for facility users, and animal physiological monitoring equipment.

Over the past several decades, advances in genetic engineering of rodent models have greatly facilitated the use of these tractable models to study nutrition, obesity, and related metabolic diseases. The use of mice and rats has advanced our understanding of pathogenic mechanisms and allowed for early-stage preclinical testing of potential therapeutic agents. However, sophisticated metabolic phenotyping can be technically challenging and require use of expensive instrumentation that is beyond the financial means of an individual investigator.

The Animal Model Research Core (AMRC) has an overall goal of enabling animal research related to nutrition and obesity and to provide mechanistic insight into human disease by provision of consultation, training, and sophisticated instrumentation and services for mouse phenotyping.

This goal is pursued through two specific aims:

Specific Aim 1: To provide NORC investigators with key phenotyping services needed for nutrition/obesity-related research in animal models, including:

  1. High-precision standardized biochemical assays in serum and tissues, including triglycerides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids
  2. Body composition analysis
  3. Spontaneous activity, energy expenditure, and balance
  4. Evaluation of exercise endurance and its effects on metabolism
  5. In vivo characterization of intermediary metabolism by imaging approaches
  6. Evaluation of organ/tissue cross talk by measuring biodistribution of labeled exosomes (in coordination with the Cellular and Molecular Biology Core)

Specific Aim 2: To provide consultation in experimental design and optimal use of AMR Core services for specific research projects, and training in procedures, assays, and use of instrumentation for investigators or their staff, in a broad range of technologies that facilitate the testing of hypotheses relevant to nutrition and obesity.

These aims encompass detailed animal phenotypic characterization, technologies that employ automation and large batches, complex instrumentation, and service and training in the pursuit of transformational research outcomes to improve human health.


Key instrumentation required for listed services includes:

Biochemical analyses
  • 1 Synergy 4 Multi-mode Micro Optical plate reader adapted for high throughput determination of serum chemistries
  • 1 GE Healthcare Life Sciences ÄKTA go protein purification system, purchased with institutional funds to support the Core in January 2020. This device uses two size exclusion columns in series for the separation of mouse lipoproteins and other proteins
  • Several types of centrifuges
Body composition analysis
  • 1 ECHO MRI machine and associated instrumentation. This instrument was refurbished at the manufacturer and new software was installed Dec 2019/Jan 2020 with institutional funds to support the Core. This device noninvasively provides quantitation of body composition
  • 1 PIXImus small animal DEXA for body composition (preferred by some bone biologists for coincident longitudinal assessment of bone density)
Metabolic assessment of energy metabolism and balance
  • 1 TSE Phenomaster (high-throughput phenotyping platform for fully automated and synchronized metabolic, behavioral, and physiological monitoring – 8 animals can be monitored at one time)
  • 8 additional wire-bottomed metabolic cages that are compatible with the Phenomaster system for determination of food intake and collection of excreta
  • 1 Oxymax small animal indirect calorimetry system
  • Infrared thermal camera, FLIR ONE
Treadmill exercise services
  • 1 motorized treadmill from Columbus Instruments (#1055-SRM-D64), six-lane with shock grid and auto-calibration. This instrument was purchased new in 2019
  • 1 Columbus Instruments motorized treadmill (Exer-3/6 treadmill), six-lane without shock grid. This machine is appropriate for endurance training experiments requiring daily use
  • 1 swim tank, holds up to 8 mice and generates light current to stimulate the desire to swim
Metabolic imaging
  • MR Solutions simultaneous PET/MR scanner enabling multi-parametric MR/PET and PET/MR spectroscopy to assess uptake and metabolism of labeled substrate. Hyperpolarized and traditional labeled substrates are available
  • Siemens Inveon MM PET/CT scanner will allow for anatomical verification of the site of uptake of labeled substrate
  • Gamma counters for assessing radioactive substrate tissue distribution
Exosome biodistribution (in collaboration with CMBC Core)
  • Perkin-Elmer Caliper IVIS Imager for optical imaging of fluorescently labeled exosomes
  • 1 Kodak In-Vivo Multispectral Imaging System FX with a dedicated PC and appropriate software to allow in vivo imaging of mouse models
Other “upon request” services
  • 1 Leica CM 1850 Cryostat
  • 1 Columbus Instruments NIBP-8 Non-Invasive (tail cuff) blood pressure monitor
  • 6 PA-C10 transmitters and receivers for telemetry determination of blood pressure
  • 6 TA10TA-F20 transmitters for core temperature determination
  • 1 Perimed Periscan laser Doppler imaging system for measuring blood flow in living animals
  • 1 high resolution digital camera attached to a microscope and integrated with a computerized image processing system
  • A variety of microscopes
  • A variety of infusion pumps
  1. Provision of mice
  2. Study design and training consultation
  3. Biochemical assays (plasma)
    • Plasma triglycerides
    • Plasma cholesterol
    • Plasma glucose
    • Plasma non-esterified fatty acids
    • Plasma lipoproteins (VLDL, LDL, HDL)
  4. Biochemical assays (tissues)
    • Tissue triglycerides
    • Tissue cholesterol
    • Tissue non-esterified fatty acids
  5. Body composition analyses
  6. Metabolic assessment and comprehensive phenotyping capabilities
    • Indirect calorimetry
    • Food intake
    • Urine and feces collection
    • Physical activity measurements
  7. Quantitative RT-PCR of nutrition-related genes
  8. Evaluation of exercise endurance and metabolic effects of exercise training in animal models
    • Labeled substrates with PET/MR and PET/CT

Please contact Sangeeta Adak for core pricing information:

Please acknowledge the Washington University NORC, Nutrition Obesity Research Center, in your publications by: “Supported by NIH grant P30 DK056341 (Nutrition Obesity Research Center).”