Imaging/Diagnostic Technologies
Introduction
X-rays are excellent for imaging hard tissue, as well as showing 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 want to be able to detect the tumor cells directly -- potentially leading to better and earlier diagnosis of breast cancer.
Smart Probes/Smart Scalpel
Smart Probes and Smart Scalpels refer to a combination of an imaging and a therapeutic device. These devices are designed to be tissue selective: they can target a specific type of tissue such as cancerous, vascular or nerve tissue. The goal of the technology is for use in microsurgical procedures, including repair of cerebral aneurysms, anastomosis of blood vessels or nerves, brain tumor resection, and acoustic neuroma removal.

The Smart Probe is designed to distinguish between healthy and cancerous tissue. During the procedure, the Smart Probe is inserted into the tissue and guided to the region in which the tumor is located. Sensors on the tip of the probe measure optical, electrical and chemical properties that are known to differ between the tissues. The Smart Probe can detect multiple (five to seven) known indicators of breast cancer. One distinct advantage of this device is the tissue measurements are made in real time in both normal and suspect tissue.

High-resolution Ultrasonic Transmission Tomography
High-resolution Ultrasonic Transmission Tomography (HUTT) is a new form of imaging technology designed by biomedical engineers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Its goal is to provide enhanced 3D images of soft tissue that are superior to existing X-ray, ultrasound or MRI units.

HUTT technology is based on using extremely short ultrasonic pulse at the rate of 4 MHz to 12 MHz frequencies. As opposed to current ultrasound technology, which receives sound that bounces back from an object, HUTT technology picks up the pulse on the other side after it has traveled through the imaged object. The result is HUTT technology offers soft tissue resolution of 0.4 mm. Current technology is capable of at best 2 mm resolution.Along with providing excellent resolution, HUTT technology is non-ionizing. This makes it safe for both the patient and the providers.

Phase-based X-rays
Current X-ray technology is based on the rate of absorption of the radiation beam by varying pathologies. This has proven to be an excellent imaging modality for hard tissues such as bone. The drawback is X-rays have limited ability to distinguish between soft tissues. Researchers are now studying methods that take advantage of the phase shift or angle that occurs when X-rays are slowed as they move through different mediums such as soft tissue. A similar process occurs when light passes from air to water. By measuring the phase shifts as X-rays pass through the boundaries of different kinds of tissue, researchers can obtain detailed pictures of soft biological tissue.

The system uses a pair of gratings. As the X-rays pass through the pathology they undergo a series of phase shifts. The distorted X-ray stream then passes through the first grating and is diffracted. The second grating absorbs the diffracted rays, allowing for more precise information on the inner details of the object. The researchers believe that phase-based imaging will be practical for a wide range of medical applications.

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