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X-rays like never before

X-rays like never before


A scanner that promises to revolutionise the world of medical imaging with full colour x–rays has been shipped from the University of Canterbury to research partners in North America.

The Medipix All Resolution System (MARS) scanner is a revolutionary CT scanner incorporating technology developed at the world’s leading particle physics research centre, CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) on the border of France and Switzerland.

The new scanner will be used in research to better understand often-fatal conditions. Canterbury University PhD student Syen Nik has travelled to the USA to use the scanner to study heart disease.

The delivery of the scanner is the next stage in an ongoing collaboration with leading research institutions around the world including CERN, Mayo Clinic, the Czech Technical University, and the universities of Canterbury and Otago.


Professor Phil Butler (Physics and Astronomy), who has been working on the scanner thanks to a Foundation for Research, Science and Technology grant, said: “The advance in x-ray detection technology gives more information for diagnosis and treatment which will improve healthcare, and save lives. The FRST grant supports a large team of physical and biological scientists, hardware and software engineers, and a range of medical researchers.”

The Medipix is a sophisticated electronic imaging chip which moves x-ray imaging from black and white to real-colour images. The extra colour information has always been there, but there has never been a way to detect it. The Medipix chips can measure this colour information, opening up significant possibilities for enhanced medical imaging.

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Dr Anthony Butler is the lead radiology researcher on the project in New Zealand. He is a researcher in Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UC and a radiologist at the medical school of the University of Otago Christchurch.

“This cements a valuable research collaboration that will explore the potential of the technology and improve the scanner for use in medicine,” said Dr Butler. “It is exciting to be able to take technology developed for high-energy physics into biomedical research that could soon be making a significant difference in healthcare.

“We are surprising ourselves with new CT images that show disease in a way that has never been seen before.”

Dr Michael Campbell, spokesman for the CERN-based Medipix collaborations, said: “It was requirements of the Large Hadron Collider which led to the development of the technology. The Medipix collaborations have adapted the technology to create new detectors which fundamentally change how x-ray images are taken and used.”

Professor Emmanuel Tsesmelis, of the CERN Directorate Office, said CERN was delighted to see that particle detectors developed for high-energy physics were finding uses in medical diagnosis. “This exciting news is showing the benefits to humanity of research collaborations that cross the oceans.” 

CERN Director General Professor Rolf Heuer said: “Basic science is the ultimate driver of innovation — without it there is no science to apply. This is a great example of that process in action.”



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