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Big Kitty Purrs During Series of Ultrasounds

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Makena, an expectant mother, doesn’t mind undergoing sonograms several times a week. That’s good for the ultrasound technicians, because Makena is a cheetah. And nobody wants an unhappy patient with big, strong teeth and claws.

Makena, who is 5 years old, is part of a breeding program at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. She submits to the procedures willingly, without sedation or restraint. She even purrs. It helps that she gets a treat to distract her: frozen beef blood, which she happily licks from a metal bowl. Check out this short (1:47) video of the process.

It also helps, a lot, that Makena has been hand-raised ever since her mother abandoned her shortly after her birth. She has bonded strongly with senior keeper Kelly Casavant—the one who holds the treat bowl during the ultrasounds.

Cheetahs can be difficult to breed and often exhibit false pregnancy, so the park has jumped at the chance to learn more about the animals’ gestation. Even at a zoo, scientists get few opportunities to do medical examinations of large predators without sedating or restraining the animals. Such noninvasive procedures as ultrasound are ideal. The North County Times reports that Casavant began getting Makena accustomed to ultrasound-like activities even before the cat was old enough to mate.

The ultrasounds have confirmed that Makena is carrying at least two cubs. “We’re going to be aunties,” said veterinary technician Rachel Peters, who performs the ultrasounds. “It’s so exciting.”

Another unusual use of medical imaging technology took place on Friday at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radiology specialists there performed a CT scan on an Egyptian mummy that’s thought to be more than 3,000 years old.

The Science Museum of Minnesota, which has owned the mummy since 1925, hoped to learn more about the mummy’s life and why he died. According to KARE TV, results won’t be publicly revealed until shortly before a big exhibit on King Tut, which is scheduled to open February 18.

The museum has results of a scan and other X-ray studies from 1983 but wanted to take advantage of technological advances since then. And it’s not as if anyone has to worry about cumulative radiation doses.

Related seminar: Maternal Fetal Imaging

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