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Background: The discovery and development of new medicines requires high-throughput screening of possible therapeutics in a specific model of the disease. Infrared thermal imaging (IRT) is a modern assessment method with extensive clinical and preclinical applications. Employing IRT in longitudinal preclinical setting to monitor arthritis onset, disease activity and therapeutic efficacies requires a standardized framework to provide reproducible quantitative data as a precondition for clinical studies. Methods: Here, we established the accuracy and reliability of an inexpensive smartphone connected infrared (IR) camera against known temperature objects as well as certified blackbody calibration equipment. An easy to use protocol incorporating contactless image acquisition and computer-assisted data analysis was developed to detect disease-related temperature changes in a collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) mouse model and validated by comparison with two conventional methods, clinical arthritis scoring and paw thickness measurement. We implemented IRT to demonstrate the beneficial therapeutic effect of nanoparticle drug delivery versus free methotrexate (MTX) in vivo. Results: The calibrations revealed high accuracy and reliability of the IR camera for detecting temperature changes in the rheumatoid arthritis animal model. Significant positive correlation was found between temperature changes and paw thickness measurements as the disease progressed. IRT was found to be superior over the conventional techniques specially at early arthritis onset, when it is difficult to observe subclinical signs and measure structural changes. Conclusion: IRT proved to be a valid and unbiased method to detect temperature changes and quantify the degree of inflammation in a rapid and reproducible manner in longitudinal preclinical drug efficacy studies.
Nosrati, Z., Bergamo, M., Rodríguez-Rodríguez, C., Saatchi, K., & Häfeli, U. O. (2020). Refinement and validation of infrared thermal imaging (IRT): a non-invasive technique to measure disease activity in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Research and Therapy, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-020-02367-w