Five-Dimensional Imaging Technology: the Next Big Thing in Cardiovascular Imaging

Renowned biomedical engineer Guohua Cao of Virgina Tech is currently leading a research team together with Ge Wang of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and formerly of Virginia Tech, to develop a state-of-the-art X-ray scanner which utilizes five-dimensional imaging. This development is a first in the biomedical engineering research field.

Cao pointed out that the current modalities used by physicians are not sufficient to precisely identify blockages or atherosclerotic plaques in the cardiovascular system. The lack of non-invasive imaging modalities, according to him, is a barrier to the accurate diagnosis of these blocks which may cause cardiac morbidities such as heart attack and stroke. The field of cardiovascular imaging, however, is the most challenging as explained by Cao. This is because conducting biomedical research studies using mouse models is rather difficult due to the physiologic movements of these animals which are about ten times that of a human.

The NSF career grant awardee states that the objective of the research is to be able to combine three separate technologies and be able to successfully make it work as one. He is currently working on an innovative approach to imaging by developing the first five-dimensional micro-computer tomography scanner which can be used to produce live images of atherosclerotic plaques in transgenic animal subjects.

With an academic grant amounting to $400,000, Cao and the rest of the research team is working to increase the image quality of pictures which is taken from the motions of the heart. The device is also expected to achieve time-based high resolution imaging. To achieve this, they are hoping to develop a carbon-nanotube field emission X-ray source. The production of this novel imaging modality calls for the integration of an energy-sensitive photon counting x-ray detector with this specific kind of x-ray.

The lead authors of the study, Cao and Wang, are both engaged in research and development of novel imaging modalities in the field of cancer staging, early screening of diseases, therapeutic assessment and other aspects in the medical field.

Cao and his previous studies regarding the carbon nanotube technology have been previously recognized. His works have been published in several academic publications including The Economist, Discovery News, Technology Review, Nature, and German Public Radio.

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