The University of California, David (UC Davis) has released the first-ever human images from its medical imaging scanner EXPLORER, the world's first scanner capable of capturing a 3-D picture of the whole human body at once. And the result is not just images but rather videos!
EXPLORER combines positron emission tomography and x-ray computed tomography, allowing the impressive scanner to capture radiation far more efficiently than its predecessors or current competitors. This means that the novel imaging tool can produce a picture in as little as one second and then, with just a little more time, can provide actual video clips that track the progression of substances in the body.
"While I had imagined what the images would look like for years, nothing prepared me for the incredible detail we could see on that first scan," said brainchild of EXPLORER Simon Cherry, a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering. "While there is still a lot of careful analysis to do, I think we already know that EXPLORER is delivering roughly what we had promised.
The sentiment was shared by his collaborator in the project Ramsey Badawi, chief of Nuclear Medicine at UC Davis Health and vice-chair for research in the Department of Radiology. "The level of detail was astonishing, especially once we got the reconstruction method a bit more optimized," he said.
"We could see features that you just don't see on regular PET scans. And the dynamic sequence showing the radiotracer moving around the body in three dimensions over time was, frankly, mind-blowing. There is no other device that can obtain data like this in humans, so this is truly novel."
Faster and better than the rest
So far, EXPLORER produces higher-quality diagnostic PET scans than ever possible before, can scan up to 40 times faster than current PET scans and can produce full diagnostic scans of the entire body in as little as 20-30 seconds. EXPLORER is also safer, scanning with a radiation dose up to 40 times less than a current PET scan.
"The tradeoff between image quality, acquisition time and injected radiation dose will vary for different applications, but in all cases, we can scan better, faster or with less radiation dose, or some combination of these," Cherry said.
But its biggest advantage is that, for the first time ever, an imaging scanner can finally evaluate what is happening inside all of a body's organs and tissues simultaneously. Now, the scientists have turned to showcasing EXPLORER's many capabilities and advantages in order to see the scanner hopefully accepted in institutions everywhere.
"I don't think it will be long before we see at a number of EXPLORER systems around the world," Cherry said. "But that depends on demonstrating the benefits of the system, both clinically and for research. Now, our focus turns to planning the studies that will demonstrate how EXPLORER will benefit our patients and contribute to our knowledge of the whole human body in health and disease."