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Dual-Modality Imaging Technique Aids in Earlier Disease Detection

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 21 Apr 2023
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Image: A new lower cost, dual-modality imaging technique could facilitate earlier disease detection (Photo courtesy of Freepik)
Image: A new lower cost, dual-modality imaging technique could facilitate earlier disease detection (Photo courtesy of Freepik)

Diagnostic imaging plays a crucial role in healthcare by enabling clinicians to detect and diagnose various medical conditions. However, despite considerable advancements in imaging technology, single imaging techniques often cannot address all diagnostic situations, leading to increased reliance on multiple imaging types and higher healthcare costs. To overcome this challenge, researchers have developed a dual-modality imaging method that provides comprehensive diagnostic information while offering a cost-effective solution for healthcare providers.

Ultrasound (US) imaging is a common and extensively used diagnostic tool in healthcare, but its low image quality often necessitates pairing with higher-quality, more expensive imaging methods like MRI. To improve US imaging, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL, USA) combined photoacoustic (PA) imaging, super-resolution ultrasound imaging, and a sparsity-constrained optimization method to develop a dual-modality, super-resolution medical imaging technique. This innovative imaging tool offers increased accessibility, portability, and cost-effectiveness, providing functions comparable to clinical medical imaging techniques at a significantly lower cost.

The research team demonstrated their pioneering technique in two vital in vivo situations—lymph nodes and kidneys. Current techniques can either visualize vasculature or locate lymph nodes, but not both simultaneously. The new method proved capable of providing information on both lymph node location and vasculature. Similarly, in the case of kidneys, existing imaging modalities struggle to capture both structural and functional information of the kidney tissue adequately. The dual imaging modality enabled the identification of not only the kidney's unique vasculature but also the functionality of the kidney tissue.

Going forward, the researchers plan to add another layer of imaging—molecular information—to observe changes at the molecular or even genetic level where most diseases originate. The team is excited about the potential applications of this novel imaging approach and is keen on using the method to study neurodegenerative brain diseases. Given the vital role of oxygen supply in brain function, this imaging technique could provide a powerful tool for visualizing the blood vasculature responsible for delivering oxygen to the brain.

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