Published: Mon, July 16, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Scientists develop the world's first 3D color X-rays

Scientists develop the world's first 3D color X-rays

A smaller version of the 3D scanner that's been used for studying cancer and vascular diseases is already yielding promising results, and thanks to the licensing agreement between CERN and MARS, the technology will be commercialized.

Traditional X-rays produce a black image when passing through soft tissue and a white image when absorbed by denser bone material.

Father and son scientists Professors Phil and Anthony Butler from Canterbury and Otago Universities spent a decade building and refining their product.

The developers, who founded the firm MARS Bioimaging, agreed with CERN on the use of this technology in a commercial unit capable of taking pictures, which represent several types of tissue. The tech is called Medipix and it detects and counts individual sub-atomic particles as they collide with pixels in the X-ray machine.


The color X-ray technology, which could help improve the field of medical diagnostics, utilizes particle-tracking technology developed for CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

Anthony Butler says the MARS scanner will enable more accurate diagnosis of medical conditions ranging from cancer to arthritis and will allow for more personalized treatment plans. The latter together with more than 20 research institutes forms the third generation of Medipix collaboration. "In addition, Mars scanners have a much smaller pixel size, meaning its possible to generate 1000x more information than existing CT systems for the same dose". Because of this innovative form of x-raying, the images produced are reliable with high contrast and high resolution making the technology ideal for use in the medical field.

The 3D color scans deliver significantly more medical information than a conventional X-ray, showing fat, water, calcium and disease markers. As Aurélie Pezous, CERN Knowledge Transfer Officer states, "It is always satisfying to see our work leveraging benefits for patients around the world".

Over the next few months, a group of patients from New Zealand with orthopedic and revmatologii problems will test the three-dimensional color x-rays in a clinical setting.

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