New imaging technologies transforming medicine

October 9, 2012

Fantastic voyage (credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

A new wave of imaging technologies is transforming the practice of medicine, The New York Times reports, to give doctors an instantaneous diagnosis, as well as inexpensive systems, often based on smartphones, that can extend advanced imaging technologies to the entire world.

Driven largely by the falling cost of computing and the increasing availability of other miniaturization technologies, including nanotechnology, they include:

  • Endoscopes that use a variety of optical and acoustical techniques to virtually “punch holes” in hundreds of cells deep within the human body, while using contrast agents to identify abnormalities.
  • Molecular biomarkers that can be injected and then attach to lesions, giving doctors a direct answer about disease on a cell-by-cell basis.
  • Pattern recognition software that can automatically scan  slides in minutes instead of days and can be trained to identify a wide variety of biological structures ranging from neurons in the brain to pathogens.
  • A three-dimensional transesophageal echocardiography ultrasound system inserted through a patient’s mouth into the esophagus to produce an image of the heart from inside the patient’s rib cage to create stunning high-resolution 3-D videos of beating hearts.
  • Magnetic particle imaging (MPI) for higher resolution and faster imaging in surgical procedures that require simultaneous imaging and now use technologies like CT and PET scans.
  • On the horizon: magnetic imaging technology that will combine the speed of X-ray-based computerized tomography (CT) with the ability of MRI systems to image soft tissues.