Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Technology

Better X-Ray Vision

By Fenella SaundersSeptember 1, 2003 5:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Medical X rays are so penetrating that they pass right through the soft tissues that can reveal diseases the bone does not. But a novel X-ray imager, developed by anatomist Carol Muehleman of Rush Medical College in Chicago, physicist Zhong Zhong of Brookhaven National Laboratory, and numerous colleagues, brings tendons and ligaments, even skin and blood vessels, into view.

The new method, called diffraction-enhanced imaging, takes advantage of the intense X-ray beam generated at the National Synchrotron Light Source, a particle accelerator at Brookhaven. Once filtered and collimated, the beam passes through the body part being studied and onto a silicon crystal, which bounces the X rays onto film. Each type of soft tissue bends the X rays by a slightly different amount, which influences the intensity of the rays reaching the film. The final image offers an exceptionally clear view of the boundaries between tissues, allowing it to show, for instance, the way the surface of cartilage turns rough in the early stages of osteoarthritis.

rd_xray.jpg

Conventional X rays (left) focus on the bone. A new type of image (right) reveals tendons, fat, and skin as well.Photographs courtesy of Zhong zhong/Brookhaven National Laboratory (2).

In tests on cadaver toes, researchers could clearly see skin, nails, tendons, and the fat pad in the ball of the foot. "We are picking up different tissue characteristics than MRI can pick up, and the imaging times are much shorter. We're talking seconds as opposed to sometimes 45 minutes," says Muehleman. The research team is now adapting the technique to smaller, more practical X-ray sources.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In