Portable 3D X-ray machine based on stargazing technology could soon also be used to detect cancer
- Traditional 2D X-ray machines can miss signs of cancer until it’s more advanced
- The 3D scanners being developed are lower cost, lighter and more accurate
- They are also safer as they only emit a fraction of the radiation of X-ray and CT
- The technology could eliminate wait times and reduce extra trips to the hospital
A portable X-ray imaging machine used to track stars millions of miles away could be developed for detecting early cancers.
2D X-ray machines can often miss signs of cancer until the disease is advanced, but 3D scanners provide a much fuller picture and gives a higher accuracy in disease detection.
Unlike large and expensive traditional 2D X-ray machines they are portable – allowing for an X-ray to be taken in a GP’s office.
This makes the scans and technology cheaper to operate than the hefty hospital based machines.
A portable X-ray imaging machine used to track stars millions of miles away could be developed for detecting early cancers
Currently, X-ray is the main imaging method used in healthcare diagnosis and provides a 2D picture of patient’s body.
But images made using 2D X-ray scanners not only fail to be detailed enough for accurate diagnosis, the hefty machines mean that additional trips to specialist units are often required.
While CT scanner do offer 3D imaging, they are equally heavy and high cost, and imaging is often delayed as a result.
The new 3D scanner, which the UK Space Agency is spending £1million to develop, will be based on the same technology as that used for studying stars and promises to be low cost.
This is partly because the Adaptix 3D X-ray machine is a ‘miniaturised machine’ that allows patients get X-rays inside GP surgeries, reducing the demand for hospital scanners.
The machine include field emitters used previously by spacecrafts belonging to the European Space Agency in the mapping of stars using X-ray fibres – a project known as XMM Newton in which the UK played a major role.
Images from 2D X-ray scanners (pictured) not only fail to be detailed enough for accurate diagnosis, the hefty machines mean that additional trips to specialist imaging units are required. The new 3D scanners are portable and emit only a fraction of the radiation
They also emit less than 10 per cent of the radiation from low-dose CT scans and only one to two per cent of the more widely used, full-dose diagnostic CT.
Professor Tony Young, NHS England’s national clinical director for innovation, said: ‘Using stargazing technology to spot cancer is exactly the type of advanced innovation that could improve care for patients by speeding up diagnosis and helping to deliver our Long Term Plan which will save half a million lives.
According to the UK government’s website: ‘The demanding environment of space means that investments in the sector generate new knowledge and innovations that extend far beyond the space industry.
WHAT IS AN X-RAY?
An X-ray is a painless procedure that produces images of the inside of the body to detect a range of conditions.
It causes a type of radiation to pass through the body, which then gets absorbed at different rates by different parts of the body.
A detector than picks up the X-rays after they have passed through and turns them into an image.
Dense parts of the body that X-rays find it more difficult to pass through, such as bones, show up as clear white.
Softer parts, like the heart and lungs, show up darker.
X-rays may be used to detect broken bones, tooth problems, tumours, and lung or heart problems, to name a few.
Many people are concerned about being exposed to radiation during an X-ray, however, the part of the body being examined is only exposed for a fraction of a second.
The amount of radiation used is generally the equivalent to between a few days to a few years of that given off naturally by the environment.
The cancer risk is thought to be very small.
Source: NHS Choices