Supersized scan­ner to ex­plore the body and hunt down dis­ease

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

NEW YORK: When they were kids, Si­mon Cherry and Ram­sey Badawi both wanted to be as­tronomers, un­lock­ing mys­ter­ies in far off gal­ax­ies. That didn’t work out for them. The pair still plan on un­lock­ing mys­ter­ies but this time in­side the hu­man body. They’ve re­ceived a $15.5 mil­lion grant to build the world’s first full body PET scan­ner. Un­like X-Rays and MRI’s that im­age struc­ture in the body. Positron emis­sion to­mog­ra­phy, or PET, images func­tion on a molec­u­lar level.

“We are able to say some­thing about what the cells in the body are do­ing,” said Si­mon Cherry a pro­fes­sor of ra­di­ol­ogy and bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis. “How ac­tively they are me­tab­o­liz­ing, for ex­am­ple, or how quickly they are di­vid­ing. So tak­ing can­cer for ex­am­ple that could be tremen­dously pow­er­ful to see when you give a drug whether that shuts down the me­tab­o­lism of a tu­mor,” he added. The new scan­ner is called ‘Ex­plorer’ and sets it apart is its size. Cur­rent PET scan­ners are only able to im­age parts of the body. This new de­vice will be able to im­age the whole body in one go.

“If you think about it re­ally no or­gan in the body acts on it own,” said Ram­sey Badawi, a pro­fes­sor of ra­di­ol­ogy at UC Davis. “We are ac­tu­ally a sys­tem, a sys­tem of or­gans and all of the or­gans in­ter­act with each other. And we have never re­ally been able to in­ter­ro­gate that with imag­ing be­fore and now we are go­ing to be able to look at that and that is tremen­dously ex­cit­ing and it opens up a bunch of sci­ence that we re­ally don’t know where that is go­ing to lead, ac­tu­ally,” he added.

What it could lead to is bet­ter and safer drugs, as well as more tar­geted di­ag­nos­tic treat­ment for dis­eases, thanks to the un­prece­dented blueprint of the body this scan­ner could po­ten­tially pro­vide. “So we are go­ing to col­lect ef­fec­tively more sig­nal with this scan­ner than we do with cur­rent de­vices. And that lets us do a cou­ple of things. We can either im­age much more quickly and col­lect our sig­nal in 1/40th of the time so we can do scans in 30 sec­onds that cur­rently take 30 min­utes. Or we can drop the ra­di­a­tion dose sig­nif­i­cantly and do scans at a frac­tion of the ra­di­a­tion dose that we cur­rently do them at,” said Cherry. The team is hop­ing to start hu­man tri­als to test the scan­ner in three years time. — Reuters

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