An interdisciplinary collaboration hopes to revolutionize X-ray in 3D

Friday 10 Mar 23
Revolutionary X-ray sources and collaboration across disciplines will create the possibility of seeing 3D structures in the body's cells and characterizing tissue samples, already while the patient is on the operation table.

The new project XTREME-CT will push the boundaries of how to look into the complicated 3D structures of the human body - right into the cells. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from DTU, Aarhus University, and Hvidovre Hospital about recording 3D images of entire organs and then zooming into to the individual sub-cellular structure.

The collaboration across disciplines can provide a more holistic view of diseases and in the long term mean that tissue samples can be characterized significantly faster in hospitals - already while the patient is on the operation table.

The project will make use of revolutionary developments in X-ray sources, the so-called synchrotrons. XTREME-CT will build a new instrument, develop data science tools for the analysis of the enormous amounts of data that will be recorded, and apply the methods to central questions in neuro- and bone science.

 "X-ray studies with much better resolution than before having great prospects. For example, being able to map the architecture of a brain at neuron level and describe its connection with diseases,” says Head of Extreme-CT, Professor Henning Friis Poulsen from DTU Physics.

The project is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation with DKK 15 million through their interdisciplinary synergy programme to strengthen the synergy – knowledge sharing - between researchers across disciplines, organizations, and national borders.

Expectations for XTREME-CT

Based on pilot data from ESRF - European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, the researchers hypothesize that they can demonstrate label-free 3D imaging of all cells within cm-sized tissue and subsequently zoom in to observe the individual sub-cellular structure.

They aim to do this at the Danish-financed beamline DanMAX, at MAX IV in Lund, Sweden, which they can equip to suit the task. Notably, the volume mapped at any given resolution will be up to 104 larger than is today’s standard, allowing a Google map-type of 3D survey of the tissue in question.  

Providing such vastly superior volume renderings will have profound impact on bio-medical research, such as:  

  • For the first time we can directly visualize the full connectivity of neurons in the cortex, alveoli in the entire lungs, the complex interplay of muscle bundles in a whole heart, the osteocyte network in bones, and details of a wide range of other extended anatomical structures. The same holds for diseases such as cardiovascular conditions and cancer.
  • The extremely detailed maps may serve as databases for the next generation of artificial intelligence (AI) guided diagnostic tools, and for integration or validation of other bio-imaging modalities.
  • The maps will help facilitate a shift in bio-medical imaging from inspection of low resolution images towards statistical and quantitative comparisons at the cellular level, both within and between subjects.

About this project

The synergy project XTREME-CT is a collaboration between researchers from DTU, Aarhus University and Hvidovre Hospital and is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation with DKK 15 million through their interdisciplinary synergy programme. The researchers who have taken the initiative for the project are:

  • Henning Friis Poulsen, DTU Fysik
  • Henrik Birkedal, AU
  • Anders Dahl, DTU Compute
  • Rajmund Mokso, DTU Fysik
  • Tim Dyrby, Hvidovre Hospital

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