Fibrogenesis is the underlying mechanism of wound healing and repair. Animal models that enable longitudinal monitoring of fibrogenesis are needed to improve traditional tissue analysis post-mortem. Here, we generated transgenic reporter rats expressing the sodium iodide symporter (NIS) driven by the rat collagen type-1 alpha-1 (Col1α1) promoter and demonstrated that fibrogenesis can be visualized over time using SPECT or PET imaging following activation of NIS expression by rotator cuff (RC) injury. Radiotracer uptake was first detected in and around the injury site day 3 following surgery, increasing through day 7–14, and declining by day 21, revealing for the first time, the kinetics of Col1α1 promoter activity in situ. Differences in the intensity and duration of NIS expression/collagen promoter activation between individual RC injured Col1α1-hNIS rats were evident. Dexamethasone treatment delayed time to peak NIS signals, showing that modulation of fibrogenesis by a steroid can be imaged with exquisite sensitivity and resolution in living animals. NIS reporter rats would facilitate studies in physiological wound repair and pathological processes such as fibrosis and the development of anti-fibrotic drugs.
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