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Soon We Might Get a Real-Time, Panoramic View of the Human Body’s Insides

What if you could view the insides of the human body in high-resolution? A group of researchers at Duke University and California Institute of Technology have created technology that allows us to examine the body inside-out.

The Optical Imaging Laboratory has developed a technique called single-impulse photoacoustic computed tomography, or SIP-PACT, that can view up to five centimeters into biological tissue with “sub-millimeter-level resolution” while enabling functional information from the conventional optical microscopy.

MRI takes seconds to minutes to generate an image, and over time, x-rays can transmit too much radiation. The SIP-PACT is fast and doesn’t emit ionized radiation. The scientists have designed a circular ultrasonic detector and “fast data-acquisition system” that triangulates the root of the ultrasonic wave from any point in the body of a small animal. In conjunction with a safety-regulated laser, SIP-PACT can capture the entire cross-section of an adult rat at 50 times per second with 120-micrometer resolution. According to Junjie Yao, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke who has been working with SIP-PACT for almost a decade, SIP-PACT essentially provides a panoramic view of the entire body. "You can see the dynamics of the body in action — the pumping of the heart, the dilation of arteries, the functioning of various tissues.” They can also watch the neural networks in real time.

The researchers plan to use the technology to find cancerous melanoma cells living in the animal’s blood vessels. “We think that this technology holds great potential for both pre-clinical imaging and clinical translation,” said Yao.


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