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Imaging Modalities – two better than one

Scientists of the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging have combined two well-established imaging techniques – X-ray based computed tomography and fluorescence molecular tomography – in such a way that a detailed 360-degree view of the inside of a living organism is possible.

Scientists of the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging and the Institute of Experimental Genetics led by Vasilis Ntziachristos have achieved a milestone in imaging diagnostics: By combining two established, non-invasive imaging techniques – X-ray computed tomography (XCT) and a camera-based hybrid fluorescence molecular tomography (FMT) system – they succeeded for the first time in obtaining a 360-degree view from the inside of a living organism.

With the combined XCT-FMT method, which combines the advantages of the two proven imaging techniques, internal structures and organs can be examined in detail in the living organism. For example, it is possible – due to the 360° view – to exactly localize pathologically altered tissue in vivo. Through the combination of the two methods, significantly better results can be achieved than with a stand-alone method. In living mice the scientists were able to observe bone growth, obtain images of subcutaneous tumors in the neck area in high resolution and to diagnose lung cancer. The new combination of the two methods enables more precise diagnosis as to where the tissue is pathologically changed than when the techniques are used individually.

In further steps, the scientists want to refine this in-vivo method so that it can be used in pre-clinical diagnosis in patients – for example in the early detection of tumors. The Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging explores in vivo imaging technologies for the life sciences. It develops systems, theories and methods for imaging and image reconstruction as well as animal models for the testing of new technologies on the biological, pre-clinical and clinical level. The aim is to provide innovative tools for the bio­medical laboratory, for diagnostics and for the monitoring of therapies for human diseases.

In X-ray based computed tomography, different images taken with the aid of x-ray are assembled in the computer to ­provide three-dimensional visualization of the investigated structures. In ­fluorescence tomography the distribution of a fluorescent ­substance which was administered prior to the test is shown three-­dimensionally and non-invasively in the tissue and organs.