Scattered X-rays reveal diseased tissue
Severe lung diseases are among the leading causes of death worldwide. To date, early diagnosis of these conditions has been difficult. An international collaboration including scientists from Munich has developed an X-ray technology to do just that in the future.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is considered the fourth most common cause of death in the United States. Usually the precursor to this life-threatening lung disease is a chronic bronchitis. Partially destroyed alveoli and an over-inflation of the lungs, known as emphysema, are serious side effects. However, the initial subtle changes in the tissue are barely discernible in standard X-ray images.
Therefore, in addition to conventional X-ray images, the Munich scientists analyzed the radiation scattered by the tissue in a mouse model system. Based on these data they generated detailed images of the lungs of the experimental mice. Using such images, physicians can not only determine whether the lung is diseased but also which parts of the organ are most affected.
“Especially in early stages of the disease, identification, precise quantification and localization of emphysema with this new technique would be very helpful,” says Professor Maximilian Reiser, Head of the Institute for Clinical Radiology at LMU Munich. “We hope that one day this technology will improve COPD diagnosis and therapy, while avoiding the higher radiation exposure associated with high-resolution CT.”
The procedure was developed as part of the research work of the Cluster of Excellence Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics (MAP) by physicists from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), physicians at LMU Munich and the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) of the Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen.
For their experiments, the researchers used the Compact Light Source, a compact synchrotron radiation source made by Lyncean Technologies Inc. (USA). In the future the Center for Advanced Laser Applications (CALA), a joint project of TUM and LMU on the Research Campus Garching, will develop new laser-driven x-ray sources.
In parallel, the research group led by Franz Pfeiffer, professor for Biomedical Physics at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen, is working to improve the x-ray scattering analysis to pave the way for its use with conventional X-ray machines.
This research was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through the Cluster of Excellence Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics (MAP) and by the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant No. 240142). The Compact Light Source experiment was supported in part by a National Institute of General Medical Sciences Grant (R44-GM074437) and a National Center for Research Resources Grant (R43- RR025730). Other collaborators were the Karlsruhe Nano Micro Facility (KNMF), a Helmholtz Research Infrastructure at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Lund University (Sweden) and Lyncean Technologies Inc. (USA).
(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, Early Edition, 2012)