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New Medical Imaging Is 100 Times Less Pixelated

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A new imaging technique provide high-resolution images of the molecular composition of tissues. Researchers from several universities in Wisconsin and Illinois collaborated to demonstrate the new technique, building a facility called “Infrared Environmental Imagine” (or IRENI) at the Synchrotron Radiation Center at UW-Madison. The researchers have published an article about the new facility today in Nature Methods.

The technique uses multiple beams of something called “synchrotron” light, a kind of light emitted by a particle accelerator. The light, being in the infrared range, isn’t visible to the human eye. The researchers used 12 beams of this light and collected thousands of “chemical fingerprints,” yielding a picture 100 times less pixelated than a traditional infrared scan (above).

“We did not realize until now the improvement in detail and quality that sampling at this pixel size would bring,” said Rohit Bhargava, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a press release. “The quality of the chemical images is now quite similar to that of optical microscopy.”

What might the new imaging be used for? Medicine, for starters. The researchers already demonstrated the technique’s potential use in cases of breast and prostate cancer diagnosis. The technique could also find uses in realms as varied as pharmaceutical drug analysis, biofuel production, forensics, and art conservation.

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[Image: Carol Hirshmugl/Michael Naase]

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