Innovative X-Ray Equipment Developed with Use of X-Ray Refraction of 1/10,000 of a Degree
A development team consisting of Associate Professor Atsushi Momose with Graduate School of Frontier Sciences at the University of Tokyo, Konica Minolta Medical & Graphic, Inc. (headquarters: Hino City, Tokyo, President: Atsushi Kodama), and Professor Tadashi Hattori with Laboratory of Advanced Science and Technology for Industry (LASTI) of the University of Hyogo developed an innovative X-ray imaging device that produces image contrast from phase differences (Note 1) of the X-rays that pass through the target with an ordinary X-ray source such as those used at hospitals.
X-ray equipment that is generally used by hospitals generates contrast by recording the strength of the X-rays that pass through the target as is. For example, when the human body is X-rayed, images can be easily obtained for structures that easily absorb X-rays such as bones. However, malignant tissues and cartilages do not absorb many X-rays and are therefore difficult to photograph. On the other hand, even if not many X-rays are absorbed as the X-rays pass through tissue, a change in the X-ray phase does occur, and the transmitted X-rays become slightly refracted. This effect cannot be detected for the most part with conventional X-ray equipment. Associate Professor Momose and the others developed a device that can produce contrast by detecting X-rays that have bent about 1/10,000 degree based on a principle called Talbot-Lau Interferometry. As a result, X-ray images of soft tissues in the body such as cartilages can be successfully captured. These images were not possible with previous technology.
Dr. Tokiko Endo, Head of the Department of Radiology at the Nagoya Medical Center, used this device to image an excised specimen of breast cancer and was able to successfully photograph the location of the breast cancer, which could not be confirmed with conventional X-ray images. This result suggests that the device can be effectively utilized for the early diagnosis of breast cancer, and the results was announced at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society of Medical Imaging, which was held at the Tokyo Station Conference Center on February 18-19, 2011. In addition, Professor Junji Tanaka with Saitama Medical University also used this device and successfully imaged cartilages, which is difficult to film with conventional methods. This result which suggests the possibility of using the new device for early stage diagnosis of rheumatism was announced at the European Congress of Radiology 2011 (ECR 2011), which was held on March 3-7, 2011 in Vienna, Austria.
These results demonstrate the possibility of the new equipment as an extremely useful diagnostic imaging device for medical care. In addition, as innovative X-ray equipment from Japan, the new equipment is also expected to demonstrate potential usefulness in a wide range of applications including product inspections and X-ray based nondestructive testing for security purposes.