New X-ray technology produces striking 3D images in full color

A new medical imaging device uses technology developed by particle physicists to produce full-color, 3D images of the human body.


A new medical imaging device uses technology developed by particle physicists to produce full-color, 3D images of the human body.

Phil and Anthony Butler, a father and son team in New Zealand who teach physics and bioengineering, respectively, have been developing the technology for a decade through their company MARS Bioimaging. The scanner uses hybrid-pixel technology called Medipix3, which was initially developed for the Large Hadron Collider.

“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,” reads a statement from CERN “This enables high-resolution, high-contrast, very reliable images, making it unique for imaging applications in particular in the medical field.


Credit: MARS Bioimaging

Traditional X-rays produce a black image when passing through soft tissue and a white image when absorbed by denser bone material. The Medipix3 detector, however, “is able to measure how specific energies of X-rays are being attenuated” and can differentiate between bone, muscle, metal, fats and liquid. This level of sensitivity enables the technology to produce a strikingly realistic representation of the internal body.

“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,” Phil Butler said in a CERN news release.

Butler said the scanner could help doctors provide better treatment.

“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.”

The technology could also expand the scope of conditions that imaging procedures are able to diagnose, including cancer and joint health. For now, the father-son team plans to test their scanner in a trial focused on orthopedic and rheumatology patients in New Zealand, though it will likely be years before the technology is approved for widespread use.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
popular

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less