First 3D colour X-ray of a human using CERN technology

The MARS scanner produced this view of Phil Butler's ankle.                  MARS Bioimaging

The MARS scanner produced this view of Phil Butler's ankle. MARS Bioimaging

Father and son scientists Professors Phil and Anthony Butler from Canterbury and Otago Universities spent a decade building and refining their product. This colour X-ray imaging technique could produce clearer and more accurate pictures and help doctors give their patients more accurate diagnoses. When an X-ray beam passes through a body, its photons are absorbed at different amounts depending on the density of material such as bones.

The technology is now being commercialized in the form of a dedicated scanner by a New Zealand startup called Mars Bioimaging, which recently performed the world's first ever color X-ray of human body parts - in this case, the ankle and wrist.

"The image of this new image can not be obtained with other image tools due to the small pixels and specific energy resolution of the machine", said Phill Butler, a student of University of Canterbury.

Medipix is a family of read-out chips for particle imaging and detection.

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This technology is produced by a New Zealand-based company, MARS Bioimaging, with contacting the University of Otago and the University of Canterbury. They were originally created to track particles accurately at the Large Hadron Collider and, due to their precision, have shown enormous potential in medicine. It allows high resolution and very reliable images that promised to have many more uses than just high-energy physics. This enables easy differentiation between bones, fats, muscles, calcium, disease markers or all other tissues present in the body. The Medipix3 chip works equally with a sensor of a digital camera, but it identifies and calculates the particles are hitting each pixel when a shutter opens. "We have already demonstrated using our small-bore system that it can be used for investigating composition of plaques that cause strokes, measuring the deterioration of cartilage, viewing bone-metal implant interfaces, and detecting small cancers in mice".

Professor Anthony Butler told CERN that, "In all of these studies, promising early results suggest that when spectral imaging is routinely used in clinics, it will enable more accurate diagnosis and personalization of treatment".

CERN's Knowledge Transfer group has a long-standing expertise in transferring CERN technologies, in particular for medical applications.

The scanner is based on CERN's Medipix3 technology.

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