Pushing the boundaries

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Lisa Fratt, Editor

Since its inception, advanced visualization technology has continually stretched the boundaries of clinical imaging. Recent developments in the research realm indicate that advanced viz will continue to open new frontiers and improve patient care in for unique conditions in new ways.

Consider, for example, research originating at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, which builds on previous successes and may bring advanced visualization to the endoscopy suite.

Repeat imaging of patients with bladder cancer is fraught with inefficiency and inconvenience. Annual follow-up bladder scans require patients to visit a specialist and undergo an expensive, time-consuming scan. The process is frighteningly akin to film-based radiology.

UW researchers, however, seem to have found a way to bring the process into the 21st century and create a Google-like view of the bladder. Currently in the research and development phase, the new and improved process combines UW's ultrathin laser endoscope with software that stitches together images from the scope's path to create a full 3D panorama of the bladder interior. Exams could be completed by a nurse or technician, ultimately improving patient convenience while streamlining the process.

Although it’s a few years away from actual clinical use, the project represents the type of win-win in terms of patient care and clinical progress that is the hallmark of advanced visualization.

On the other end of the research spectrum is molecular x-ray technique under development at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Researchers have pioneered a method to create 3D images of the myelin sheaths of rat brains. The development is critical for building understanding of brain disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease as changes in the myelin sheaths are associated with these diseases.

The technique is unlikely to be transferred to humans; however, it could help researchers better understand the development and pathways of the diseases, which, in turn, may ultimately lead to improved methods for prevention, detection and treatment.

I’m certain these examples represent the mere tip of the iceberg. What promising advanced visualization research projects are you excited about? Please let us know.

Lisa Fratt, editor