MR sheds light on mummy bones

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Siemens Medical Solutions conducted an endurance test on ancient Egyptian and Peruvian mummies using MR scanners, which has allowed researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland to examine parts of the intervertebral disks or embalming substances used for mummification in ancient Egypt.

“Not only orthopedic surgeons will be pleased – our software will also support neurologists when examining, for example, patients with Alzheimer’s disease with the aid of such MR images, or monitoring the body metabolism,” explained Walter Märzendorfer, the head of MR at Siemens Medical Solutions.

Up to now, visualization of body tissue through an MR system was only possible based on the tissue’s different water contents, said Märzendorfer. Hence, it was primarily soft tissue that physicians saw on MR images, and not, for example, details of the bone structure, as will be possible with the new software, he added.

What many patients will consider great progress in gentle medicine is already a milestone in the research on mummies. “The new software from Siemens provides us for the first time with an absolutely non-destructive examination method without having to moisten valuable tissue before the examination,” said Frank Rühli, PhD, manager of the Swiss Mummy Project, Anatomical Institute, University of Zurich.

Siemens is currently developing specific software for picking up the signal from dry tissue and converting it into sharp images. This software might allow visualization of even fine bone structures without x-rays in the future, said the company.