Portable molecular imaging system has utility in multiple clinical settings

A portable molecular imaging system developed by a team of researchers from the University of Leicester, the University of Nottingham (both in England), and colleagues combines optical imaging at the surface level and scintigraphy to capture physiological function. The optical-gamma imaging approach could provide a multi-dimensional look at the body by allowing physicians to see a visual representation of molecular data in the same frame as optical images of the skin, the eyes, and other surface organs.

Related: Optical molecular imaging - closer to clinical

The scintigraphy aspect of the scanner is comprised of a gamma camera that detects tiny radioactive signals emitted from the body after injection of a radionuclide, which interacts with specific physiological functions of the body, so that nuclear medicine physicians and their colleagues can extrapolate information from the radionuclide's activity.

The handheld scanner can be used in a variety of settings, including the outpatient clinic, patient bedside, operating theater, and intensive care unit (ICU), explains Alan Perkins, Ph.D., Professor of Medical Physics, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham.

In a clinical pilot study of the scanner, the researchers imaged subjects undergoing routine molecular imaging procedures such as bone scans or imaging of the thyroid, eye, or lymphatic system. The investigators optimized the image resolution and acquisition time to under five minutes by adopting a 1.5-mm-thick scintillator, which picks up gamma rays as they are emitted from within the body, and a 1 mm pin-hole collimator, which acts like an aperture to narrow focus on a particular field of view.

Results of the study showed that the optical-gamma camera was highly effective for imaging lymphatic and thyroid tissue, as well as drainage from the tear ducts, or lacrimal glands. Successful absorption of the radionuclides in these targeted areas was clearly seen in tandem with optical images of surface anatomy. This imaging system is still in development and requires further investigation before being made available to wider patient populations.

The researchers' scientific paper describing the work, "A novel compact hybrid optical-gamma-camera: First clinical result," was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), which took place June 11-15, 2016, in San Diego, CA.

For more information, please visit www.snmmi.org/am.

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