Human images from world’s first full-body 3D scanner

3 min


Images from the world’s first full-body 3D medical scanner, EXPLORER, have been released.

Developed by scientists from UC Davis, the scanner combined positron emission tomography (PET) and X-ray computed tomography (CT) to capture the entire body at once.

Scientists Simon Cherry and Ramsey Badawi believe the technology will have “countless applications” from improving diagnostics through to drug research and tracking disease progression.

The first images of human scans from the EXPLORER are to be presented at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America on 24 November in Chicago.

“While I had imagined what the images would look like for years, nothing prepared me for the incredible detail we could see on that first scan,” said Mr Cherry, distinguished professor in the UC Davis department of biomedical engineering.

“While there is still a lot of careful analysis to do, I think we already know that EXPLORER is delivering roughly what we had promised.”

MRI scanner - iStock image
Other devices cannot obtain EXPLORER-level details, its inventors say

Mr Badawi, chief of nuclear medicine at UC Davis Health and vice-chair for research in the department of radiology, said he was dumbfounded when he saw the first images.

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“The level of detail was astonishing, especially once we got the reconstruction method a bit more optimised,” he said.

“We could see features that you just don’t see on regular PET scans. And the dynamic sequence showing the radiotracer moving around the body in three dimensions over time was, frankly, mind-blowing.”

“There is no other device that can obtain data like this in humans, so this is truly novel,” Mr Badawi added.

Mr Badawi and Mr Cherry first came up with the idea of the full-body scanner more than a decade ago, but it wasn’t until 2011 that their idea was kick-started with a $1.5m (£1.17m) grant from the US National Cancer Institute.

Another grant boost in 2015, worth $15.5m (£12m), allowed them to bring on a commercial partner and actually build the first EXPLORER unit.

“The trade-off between image quality, acquisition time and injected radiation dose will vary for different applications, but in all cases, we can scan better, faster or with less radiation dose, or some combination of these,” Mr Cherry said.

“I don’t think it will be long before we see at a number of EXPLORER systems around the world,” he added.

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