Highlights //

New technologies for imaging the human body (2012)

New Zealand technologies being developed to perform delicate new procedures, locate sites where cancer drugs are active, and model a person’s entire skin, were just some of the topics discussed at the 2012 Maurice Wilkins Centre Symposium, which focused on imaging.

New technologies for imaging

“Imaging helps us to understand what’s happening in the body in health and disease, and how it responds to treatment, so it’s of critical importance for both clinicians and scientists,” says Director Professor Rod Dunbar.

“The symposium showcased a dazzling array of new technologies, from whole body imaging for medical purposes right down to imaging of single molecules. Our overseas speakers were impressed with the quality of the technology being developed here, and its applications, and new international collaborations have been initiated as a result.”

One of the many highlights was Dr Andrew Holden’s presentation of simultaneous imaging technology that is allowing radiologists like him to perform delicate new procedures. Andrew is Director of Interventional Radiology at the Auckland Regional Public Health Service and an Associate Professor at The University of Auckland.

His world-leading technology fuses highly detailed 3D MRI images with live x-rays, allowing much more precise work than is possible traditionally with x-rays alone. He showed footage of it being used to guide a needle into the wall of an aorta to glue up a leak around a graft repair, a problem that would otherwise have required major surgery.

Another highlight was Dr Daniel Hausermann’s display of what can be achieved with a new imaging and medical beamline at the Australian Synchrotron. The synchrotron, an electron accelerator the size of a football field, creates bright light that is channelled in beamlines for research.

The new beamline can be used to study biological structures like tiny blood vessels and dynamic processes like breathing. It is even being used to develop experimental radiotherapy applications that could more accurately deliver radiation to tumours. Daniel leads the team working with the beamline and has offered New Zealand scientists access to it.

Also generating interest was Associate Professor Steven Gieseg from the University of Canterbury, who presented colour imaging of an atherosclerotic plaque using MARS-CT. The MARS-CT machine is a portable micro CT scanner being developed at Canterbury in collaboration with local industrial partners for commercialisation.

“This is an excellent example of physics and engineering being applied to a biomedical problem,” says Rod. “It’s great technology that’s not only being developed here but is generating genuine business opportunities for New Zealand companies.”

A clear message from the symposium was the value of biologists and physicists working together. The Centre has been very successful at integrating expertise in chemistry, biology and s a lot to be gained by bringing more physicists into ”


See related stories: 2009 Creating connections between drug discovery and business;  2010 Joining forces against infections disease and 2011 The future of healthcare is already here

Image: High resolution CT scan showing vascular structure in the lung, generated using the imaging and medical beamline at the Australian Synchrotron. Image courtesy of James Pearson, Daryl Schwenke, Mikiyasu Shirai and Alberto Astolfo.