A 3D Colour Microscope for the Human Body

Gone are the days of black and white x-rays. The MARS spectral x-ray scanner invented by father and son, Professors Phil and Anthony Butler from the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, is here to revolutionise medical imaging. At the heart of the scanner is the Medipix3 chip which has been developed in collaboration with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). With this chip, we can now see the insides of the human body in much greater detail - metal, bone, fat and tissue can be identified and quantified more accurately. The scanner has previously been used to image animals, and the first human scans were recently produced.

A small version of the scanner has already been used 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 personalisation of treatment,” says MedTech CoRE Associate Director Professor Anthony Butler. The next step in the development of the scanner is a clinical trial involving orthopaedic and rheumatology patients from Christchurch.

A workshop exploring the applications of the scanner is scheduled in November this year. Further details are available here.

Professor Anthony Butler (left) with his father Professor Phil Butler and their human-sized MARS scanner.
Photo by the University of Canterbury.

One of the first human images from the MARS scanner – Professor Phil Butler’s wrist.