Free-hand ultrasound guidance permits safe and efficient minimally invasive intrathymic injections in both young and aged mice
The goal of this study was to evaluate whether use of an aseptic free-hand approach to ultrasound-guided injection facilitates injection into the thymic gland in mice. We used this interventional radiology technique in young, aged and immunodeficient mice and found that the thymus was visible in all cases. The mean injection period was 8 seconds in young mice and 19 seconds in aged or immunodeficient mice. Injection accuracy was confirmed by intrathymic location of an injected dye or by in vivo bioluminescence imaging of injected luciferase-expressing cells. Accurate intrathymic injection was confirmed in 97% of cases. No major complications were observed. We conclude that an aseptic freehand technique for ultrasound-guided intrathymic injection is safe and accurate and reduces the time required for intrathymic injections. This method facilitates large-scale experiments and injection of individual thymic lobes and is clinically relevant.