The Beginnings of a New Phase in Medical Imaging? Phase-Contrast Imaging Device Provides 3-Dimensional Views of Hard-to-Image Biological Objects
In a development that could help usher in a new kind of medical imaging for clinics and hospitals, researchers have demonstrated a practical x-ray device that provides 2- and 3-dimensional images of features in soft biological tissue that are ordinarily hard to discern with conventional x-ray imaging. Performed by researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France, this work may help make practical new medical applications, such as the ability to detect cancerous breast tissue directly, rather than the hard-tissue calcifications that are produced in later stages of the disease. The new x-ray demonstration appears in the 8 August issue of Optics Express, an open-access journal published by the Optical Society of America.
X-rays excel at imaging hard tissue--such as teeth--as well as the differences between hard and soft tissue--such as bones and skin in the human hand. However, x-rays are not good at distinguishing between different types of soft tissue, such as normal and cancerous cells in the breast. While x-ray mammography detects the hard “calcifications” that are the byproducts of breast tumors, researchers wish to be able to detect the tumor cells directly-potentially leading to better and earlier diagnosis of breast cancer.
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