Using Chemistry to Create Technicolor Body Scans


FTIR Analysis Combined with CT-scans Creates Revolutionary 3D ImagingDid you know the bright colors you see in CT Scans at the doctor’s office or in medical TV shows are actually added in after the scan for artistic effect? Well that’s about to change.

Experts are now using FTIR analysis and computed tomography (CT-scans) to create technicolor, 3D images in which the colors identify chemical structures with unprecedented detail.

“The notion of having the colors in a 3D reconstructed image being tied to real chemistry is powerful,” said Michael Martin, an infrared imaging expert at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source, who is one of the authors of a paper describing this research. “We’ve all seen pretty 3D renderings of medical scans with colors, for example bone-colored bones, but that’s simply an artistic choice. Now we can spectrally identify the specific types of minerals within a piece of bone and assign a color to each type within the 3D reconstructed image.”

FTIR Analysis Measures Composition and Structure

FTIR analysis, the preferred material analysis technique, is used to identify unknown materials, quantify surface contamination on a material and pinpoint substance additives. Every individual type of molecule absorbs infrared (IR) light at specific wavelengths that are as characteristic as a human fingerprint.

FTIR analysis measures the range of the wavelengths in the infrared region that are absorbed by the molecule. The molecule’s absorbance of the infrared light’s energy at various wavelengths is measured to determine its molecular composition and structure.

FTIR Spectro-microtomography

FTIR analysis is especially valuable for imaging proteins and other biological samples because it is non-destructive and can be performed without altering the sample. Martin and his co-author, UWM physicist Carol Hirschmugl, along with their colleagues, in combining FTIR testing with computed tomography, achieved what is believed to be the first demonstration of FTIR spectro-microtomography.

“FTIR spectro-microtomography involves low-energy IR photons that do not affect living systems and do not require artificial labels, contrast agents or sectioning,” Hirschmugl says. “It greatly enhances the capabilities of both FTIR spectroscopy and CT by creating a full-color spectro-microtomogram in which each voxel contains a complete spectrum (millions of spectra per sample) that provides a wealth of information for advanced spectral segregation techniques such as clustering, neural networks and principal-component analysis.”

While the researchers see the potential of the new FTIR analysis technique in the field of medical imaging, Martin envisions its future application expanding into a variety of industries.

“We’ve been able to do a lot of exciting science with 2D FTIR imaging at the diffraction limit using synchrotron infrared beamlines, and it’s very exciting to now be able to expand this to true 3D spectroscopic imaging,” Martin says. “While the most immediate applications will be in biomedical imaging, I think full color FTIR spectro-microtomography will also be applicable to imaging 3D structures in biofuels, plants, rocks, algae, soils, agriculture and possibly even studies of art history where different layers of paints could be revealed.”

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