Have you ever wondered why we have color television, but most medical imaging is stuck using black and white?
That may be about to changes as a team using technology that was used at the Large Hadron Collider have released the first 3D Color X-Rays of parts of the human body. The development could revolutionize medical imaging.
Producing striking new images, a New-Zealand-based company has scanned, for the first time, a human body using a breakthrough color medical scanner based on the technology developed at CERN. Father and son scientists Professors Phil and Anthony Butler from Canterbury and Otago Universities spent a decade building and refining their product based on CERN’s Medipix3 hybrid pixel detector system.
MARS Bioimaging Ltd, which is commercializing the new 3D scanner, worked with more than 20 research institutes on the project.
MARS’ solution couples the spectroscopic information generated by the Medipix3 enabled detector with powerful algorithms to generate 3D images. The colours represent different energy levels of the X-ray photons as recorded by the detector hence identifying different components of body parts such as fat, water, calcium, and disease markers.
Medipix is a family of read-out chips for particle imaging and detection. The original concept of Medipix is that it works like a camera, detecting and counting each individual particle hitting the pixels when its electronic shutter is open. This enables high-resolution, high-contrast, very reliable images, making it unique for imaging applications in particular in the medical field.
The Medipix3 chip is the most advanced chip available today and Phil Butler recognizes that “this technology sets the machine apart diagnostically because its small pixels and accurate energy resolution mean that this new imaging tool is able to get images that no other imaging tool can achieve.”
This hybrid pixel-detector technology was initially developed to address the needs of particle tracking at the Large Hadron Collider, and successive generations of Medipix chips have demonstrated over 20 years the great potential of the technology outside of high-energy physics.
To date, researchers have been using a small version of the MARS scanner to study cancer, bone and joint health, and vascular diseases that cause heart attacks and strokes.
“In all of these studies, promising early results suggest that when spectral imaging is routinely used in clinics it will enable more accurate diagnosis and personalization of treatment,” Professor Anthony Butler says.
CERN’s Knowledge Transfer group has a long-standing expertise in transferring CERN technologies, in particular for medical applications.
Aurélie Pezous, CERN Knowledge Transfer Officer states, “It is always satisfying to see our work leveraging benefits for patients around the world. Real-life applications such as this one fuels our efforts to reach even further.”
In the coming months, orthopaedic and rheumatology patients in New Zealand will be scanned by the revolutionary MARS scanner in a clinical trial that is a world first, paving the way to a potentially routine use of this new generation equipment based on 3D color X-rays.