Study: New molecular imaging technology may detect cellular processes

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Experimental studies at the Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid have been based in electronic architecture for gamma ray detectors and industry transfer of a complete scanner, which has produced electronic technology equipment, based on molecular imaging, for biomedical imaging capable of detecting live cellular processes. The research has recently been published in IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science (two articles) and Physics in Medicine and Biology (one article).

"These [patent-pending] techniques differ from conventional medical imaging in that the information they show is function not form, which means that they are capable of showing the malfunctioning of an organ before the malfunction turns into an anatomical change", said Juan José Vaquero López, PhD, professor in the department bioengineering and aerospace engineering at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. "[T]hey allow for earlier detection of a possible anomaly, which enormously facilitates treatment.”

In addition to making an earlier diagnosis possible these types of scanners are used in biomedical research and in pharmaceutical laboratories, for example, to speed up the development of new medicines, according to the researchers.

"SPECT is probably the most widespread molecular imagining technique in clinical practice, and from there stems the interest in having preclinical systems which allow the study of human illnesses to be carried out on animals,” said Manuel Desco, MD, PhD, professor in the department bioengineering and aerospace engineering at Universidad Carlos III.

The department of bioengineering and aerospace engineering at Universidad Carlos III focuses on the development of preclinical molecular imaging scanners used in research work on animals. Obtaining good quality images in these applications constitutes a much more difficult technical challenge than with humans, due to the large difference in size (with animals being approximately 280 times smaller).

The research group has reportedly completed the development of a SPECT-type system for laboratory animals at a university installation.

The team, in addition to carrying out research which leads to scientific publications, said it focuses a large part of its interest on technology transfer so that it can be commercialized. The company, Sedecal, a Spanish manufacturer and exporter of electro-medical imaging equipment, is going to commercialize the system in the immediate future.

The researchers continue to work on new developments in the area of technology, in close contact with national industry. Part of the developments are under the framework of the AMIT (Advanced Molecular Imaging Technologies) Project from the most recent CENIT public funding, whose scientific coordination oversees this equipment at the Universidad Carlos III.