News | Computed Tomography (CT) | December 27, 2018

CT Technique Expands Possibilities of Imaging Ancient Remains

Swedish researchers use propagation-based imaging to enhance X-ray image contrast

CT Technique Expands Possibilities of Imaging Ancient Remains

December 27, 2018 — Researchers in Sweden using computed tomography (CT) have successfully imaged the soft tissue of an ancient Egyptian mummy’s hand down to a microscopic level, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.1

Non-destructive imaging of human and animal mummies with X-rays and CT has been a boon to the fields of archaeology and paleopathology, or the study of ancient diseases. Imaging studies have contributed to a better knowledge of life and death in ancient times and have the potential to improve our understanding of modern diseases.

Both X-ray and conventional CT take advantage of the fact that materials absorb different amounts of X-rays. This phenomenon, known as absorption contrast, creates different degrees of contrast within an image.

“For studying bone and other hard, dense materials, absorption contrast works well, but for soft tissues the absorption contrast is too low to provide detailed information,” said Jenny Romell, M.Sc., from KTH Royal Institute of Technology/Albanova University Center in Stockholm, Sweden. “This is why we instead propose propagation-based phase-contrast imaging.”

Propagation-based imaging enhances the contrast of X-ray images by detecting both the absorption and phase shift that occurs as X-rays pass through a sample. The phase effect with X-rays is similar to how a ray of light changes direction as it passes through a lens. Capturing both absorption and phase shift provides higher contrast for soft tissues.

“There is a risk of missing traces of diseases only preserved within the soft tissue if only absorption-contrast imaging is used,” Romell said. “With phase-contrast imaging, however, the soft tissue structures can be imaged down to cellular resolution, which opens up the opportunity for detailed analysis of the soft tissues.”

Romell and colleagues evaluated phase-contrast CT by imaging a mummified human right hand from ancient Egypt. The hand, today in the collection of the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, was brought to Sweden at the end of the 19th century, along with other mummified body parts and a fragment of mummy cartonnage (papier-mâché case). The cartonnage belonged to an Egyptian man and has been dated to around 400 BCE (before common era). They scanned the entire hand and then performed a detailed scan of the tip of the middle finger.

The estimated resolution of the final images was between 6 to 9 micrometers, or slightly more than the width of a human red blood cell. Researchers were able to see the remains of adipose cells, blood vessels and nerves; they were even able to detect blood vessels in the nail bed and distinguish the different layers of the skin.

“With phase-contrast CT, ancient soft tissues can be imaged in a way that we have never seen before,” Romell said.

The findings point the way to a role for phase-contrast CT as an adjunct or alternative to invasive methods used in soft-tissue paleopathology that require extraction and chemical processing of the tissue. Due to their potentially destructive nature, these methods are undesirable or unacceptable for the analysis of many old and fragile specimens.

“Just as conventional CT has become a standard procedure in the investigation of mummies and other ancient remains, we see phase-contrast CT as a natural complement to the existing methods,” Romell said. “We hope that phase-contrast CT will find its way to the medical researchers and archaeologists who have long struggled to retrieve information from soft tissues, and that a widespread use of the phase-contrast method will lead to new discoveries in the field of paleopathology.”

For more information: www.pubs.rsna.org/journal/radiology

 

Reference

1. Romell J., Vågberg W., Romell M., et al. Soft-Tissue Imaging in a Human Mummy: Propagation-based Phase-contrast CT. Radiology, Sept. 25, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1148/radiol.2018180945

Related Content

Amazon Comprehend Medical Brings Medical Language Processing to Healthcare
News | Artificial Intelligence | February 15, 2019
Amazon recently announced Amazon Comprehend Medical, a new HIPAA-eligible machine learning service that allows...
Fujifilm Exhibits Enterprise Imaging Solutions and Artificial Intelligence Initiative at HIMSS 2019
News | Enterprise Imaging | February 15, 2019
Fujifilm Medical Systems U.S.A. Inc. and Fujifilm SonoSite Inc. showcased their enterprise imaging and informatics...
IBM Watson Health Announces New AI Collaborations With Leading Medical Centers
News | Artificial Intelligence | February 14, 2019
IBM Watson Health announced plans to make a 10-year, $50 million investment in research collaborations with two...
Siemens Healthineers Demonstrates Artificial Intelligence, Healthcare Digitalization at HIMSS19
News | Artificial Intelligence | February 13, 2019
February 13, 2019 — At the 2019 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) global conference and e
PaxeraHealth Launching Universal Image Sharing Platform at ECR 2019
News | PACS Accessories | February 13, 2019
PaxeraHealth will launch the PaxeraShare image sharing platform at the 2019 European Congress of Radiology (ECR) annual...
NVIDIA Explores Role of AI, Analytics and Virtualization in Healthcare at HIMSS19
News | Artificial Intelligence | February 13, 2019
Digital technology company NVIDIA will highlight its newest partnerships to advance the digital transformation of...
Philips Launches Latest Iteration of IntelliSpace Cardiovascular at HIMSS 2019
Technology | Cardiac PACS | February 13, 2019
Philips announced the launch of IntelliSpace Cardiovascular 4.1, its next-generation cardiovascular image and...
Hologic Launches Unifi Analytics Business Intelligence Tool
Technology | Analytics Software | February 12, 2019
Hologic Inc. announced the U.S. launch of Unifi Analytics, a business intelligence tool that allows healthcare...
Canon Adds Radiation Therapy Package to Aquilion Prime, Lightning CT Systems
News | Computed Tomography (CT) | February 11, 2019
In the patient-centric world of radiation oncology, it is critical that computed tomography (CT) simulation is...
Videos | Angiography | February 08, 2019
This is an example of an arterial venous malformation (AVM) in the brain imaged on a...