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Coloured, 3D X-rays are about to change medical research forever

In an era of unprecedented medical advances, this invention from a father-son team in New Zealand will completely revolutionise X-rays.

The incredible device evolves X-rays, taking them from broken-bone detectors to a means by which doctors and scientists can study cancer and vascular disease.

Using pixel-detector technology developed by CERN to track particles in the Large Hadron Collider, Professors Phil and Anthony Butler – from Canterbury and Otago Universities – have spent the last ten years developing an X-ray that shows scanned areas in three dimensions and colour.

This means that metal, soft tissue, fat, bone, water and disease markers can all be separated out and easily identified.

The Kiwi company commercialising the 3D technology, MARS Bioimaging Ltd – with Phil as CEO and his son, Anthony, as Chief Medical Officer – have so far developed a small bore scanner, with a full-size human scanner in the works.

Professor Phil said, “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.”

Breaking down what this means, Professor Phil gave an analogy any dodo can wrap their feeble brain around.

“When you go from a black and white camera photographing a tree with its leaves, you can’t tell whether the leaves are healthy or not,” he said.

“But if you’ve got a colour camera, you can see whether they’re healthy leaves or they’re diseased.”

The technology is already being used to study cancer, bones and vascular diseases.

“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 personalisation of treatment,” Professor Anthony Butler said.

The technology is set to be used in clinical trials on orthopaedic and rheumatology patients in New Zealand hospitals over the coming months, with the MARS team excited about the potential their product is packing.

“There’s the possibility of affecting hundreds of millions of people in a significant way and that’s where the satisfaction comes from,” Anthony Butler said.

About the author

Joe was Junior Vice-President at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net until it was bought out by Bill Gates. He now subedits for Conversant Media and considers it a step up.

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