press information / news


X-ray dark-field radiography provides detailed imaging of lung diseases

Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) working in cooperation with the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Hospital and the Technische Universität München (TUM) have for the first time tested X-ray dark-field radiography on a living organism to diagnose lung disease. This enables highly detailed images of the lung to be produced. As the team reports in the Investigative Radiology journal, this method shows promise in detecting diseases such as pulmonary emphysema at an earlier stage, than it is currently available.

from left to right: Dr. Ali Önder Yildirim, Prof. Dr. Oliver Eickelberg; Source: HMGU

Conventional radiographic procedures generate images based on the absorption of X-rays as they pass through the tissue. The newly developed technique of X-ray dark-field radiography uses new technology to monitor wave changes during tissue transmission to create higher resolution images.

Detailed images
With the aid of this new technique, the team from the HMGU, University Hospital Munich and TUM around Dr. Ali Önder Yildirim and Prof. Oliver Eickelberg of the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC), which is one of the centers of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL), achieved detailed images of soft tissue.

The study was conducted in cooperation with the Cluster of Excellence Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics (MAP). The scientists used a small-animal scanner developed by Prof. Franz Pfeifer at the TUM to test X-ray dark-field radiography on a living organism. For their investigations, they evaluated and compared images of the lung. ”With X-ray dark-field radiography, structural changes in the lung tissue are visible at an early stage,” Dr. Yildirim from the CPC/HMGU says.

Early detection of lung disease
“Early detection of changes in the lung tissue will improve the diagnosis of lung diseases,” explains Dr. Felix Meinel from the Institute of Clinical Radiology at the University Hospital Munich. The clinical application, in particular the diagnosis of lung diseases such as pulmonary emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis, will now be tested in further studies.

Lung diseases are among the leading causes of death worldwide. Genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors all play a role in their development. The work of the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, focuses on the major common diseases with the aim of developing new approaches to their diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Further information

Original publication:
Meinel, F. et al. (2014): Improved Diagnosis of Pulmonary Emphysema using in vivo Dark-Field Radiography, Investigative Radiology. doi: 10.1097/RLI.0000000000000067

Link to publication

Further references:
Bech, M. et al. (2013): In-vivo dark-field and phase-contrast x-ray imaging, Nature Scientific Reports, doi: 10.1038/srep03209

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,200 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members.

The Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) is a joint research project of the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Clinic Complex and the Asklepios Fachkliniken München-Gauting. The CPC's objective is to conduct research on chronic lung diseases in order to develop new diagnosis and therapy strategies. The CPC maintains a focus on experimental pneumology with the investigation of cellular, molecular and immunological mechanisms involved in lung diseases. The CPC is a site of the Deutsches Zentrum für Lungenforschung (DZL).

The German Center for Lung Research (DZL) pools German expertise in the field of pulmonology research and clinical pulmonology. The association’s head office is in Giessen. The aim of the DZL is to find answers to open questions in research into lung diseases by adopting an innovative, integrated approach and thus to make a sizeable contribution to improving the prevention, diagnosis and individualized treatment of lung disease and to ensure optimum patient care.


Scientific contact at the Helmholtz Zentrum München
Dr. Ali Önder Yildirim, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Comprehensive Pneumoloy Center, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg -Tel. +49 89-3187-4037 -

Prof. Dr. Oliver Eickelberg, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Comprehensive Pneumoloy Center, Max-Lebsche-Platz 31, 81377 München -Tel. +49 89 3187-4666 -

Scientific contact at the Technische Universität München
Prof. Dr. Franz Pfeiffer, Lehrstuhl für Biomedizinische Physik, Department Physik, Technische Universität München, James-Franck-Str. 1, 85748 Garching – Tel. +49 89  289-12551

Scientific contact at the Klinikum der Universität München
Dr. Felix G. Meinel, Institut für Klinische Radiologie, Klinikum der Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität-München, Marchioninistr. 15, 81377 Munich, Germany,  Tel. +49 89 7095-3620