Spontaneous light emission from living animals can overcome the investigated light signals in small animal luminescence imaging. Despite autofluorescence emission is well studied the spontaneous luminescence background is less known and its importance is growing due to the new born imaging techniques like Cerenkov Luminescence Imaging and Radionuclide Luminescence Imaging in which faint sources are often involved. In order to investigate the spontaneous emission we studied the background luminescence in vivo from health Nu/Nu mice in optical imaging acquisitions and we related it with the optical properties of the diet of the animals. In particular luminescence images of mice feed with normal diet used in animal facilities were acquired using a commercial optical imager. The intensity and the spectral features of the luminescence emission from the animal surface after sunshine exposition and after normal lighting laboratory conditions were measured. The same was done with the pellets of food used to feed the animals. We found a background emission from the entire animal surface and localized light sources in the abdominal/lumbar region. Their intensity can be modulated by the light exposition of the animals before the imaging session and decreases along the time when they are put in darkness. The comparison of the luminescence time decay of animals and pellets suggests that the light sources are related to the persistent luminescence of the molecules contained in the food. So ambient exposure before imaging is important for luminescence imaging in order to keep down the background. The optical properties of food are also important and it necessary to check them before to feed the animals not only in fluorescence imaging but also in luminescence imaging.
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