First human scanned with next-generation 3D color medical scanner

The first human has been scanned with a revolutionary new 3D color medical scanner invented in New Zealand by father and son scientists from the University of Canterbury.

A 3D MARS image of an ankle viewed from the side where the soft tissue (coloured in red) has been made translucent to show the bones (white) and lipid-like material (yellow) inside the ankle.
A 3D MARS image of an ankle viewed from the side where the soft tissue (coloured in red) has been made translucent to show the bones (white) and lipid-like material (yellow) inside the ankle.

Scientists at the Universities of Canterbury and Otago have developed a revolutionary new 3D color medical scanner that is expected to revolutionize medical imaging globally. Dubbed as MARS, the scanner offers far greater detail of the body’s chemical components.

The MARS spectral x-ray scanner produces images with significantly improved diagnostic information. It measures the x-ray spectrum to produce color images instead of black-and-white ones and shows different components of body parts such as fat, water, calcium, and disease markers.

A 3D MARS image of an ankle viewed front on where the soft tissue (coloured in red) has been made translucent to show the bones (white) and  lipid-like material (yellow) inside the ankle.
A 3D MARS image of an ankle viewed front on where the soft tissue (coloured in red) has been made translucent to show the bones (white) and lipid-like material (yellow) inside the ankle.

In order to develop this scanner, scientists used technology used by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the hunt for the ‘God particle’ into a medical scanner.

Small versions of the scanner that can house tissue samples are as of now being used in research about foundations around the globe. The first human has now been scanned over a larger form of the scanner. Professor Phil Butler was the main individual to be checked. His lower leg and wrist were imaged.

A 3D MARS image of a wrist with a watch showing part of the finger bones in white and soft tissue in red.
A 3D MARS image of a wrist with a watch showing part of the finger bones in white and soft tissue in red.

The next step in development is an imminent clinical trial where orthopedic and rheumatology patients from Christchurch will be scanned. This will allow the MARS team to compare the images produced by their scanner with the technology currently used in New Zealand hospitals.

Professor Anthony Butler says “after a decade in development it is really exciting to have reached a point where it’s clear the technology could be used for routine patient care.”

“X-ray spectral information allows health professionals to measure the different components of body parts such as fat, water, calcium, and disease markers. Traditional black-and-white x-rays only allow measurement of the density and shape of an object.”

Prof Phil Butler displays the area of his wrist that was scanned as one of the first human images taken using the MARS large bore spectral scanner.
Prof Phil Butler displays the area of his wrist that was scanned as one of the first human images taken using the MARS large bore spectral scanner.

“So far researchers have been using a small version of the MARS scanner to study cancer, bone and joint health, and vascular diseases that cause heart attacks and strokes. 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.”

The technical and clinical information about MARS is available here.