New PET Scanner Could Improve Diagnosis

It offers much better image resolution, scientists say

MONDAY, June 16, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- A prototype of a new cutting-edge PET scanner shows promise for the early diagnosis of disease, according to Japanese researchers.

They found that their semiconductor-based PET scanner was better than the conventional version at detecting partial epilepsy and nasopharyngeal cancer.

Eventually, the new technology could be used to provide early-stage diagnosis of other cancers, neurological disorders, and cardiovascular disease, the team said. It could also assess patients' responses to treatments and determine the efficacy of new drugs.

"This is an exciting development in the field of nuclear medicine," Yuichi Morimoto, senior researcher for the Central Research Laboratory of Hitachi Ltd. in Tokyo, said in a prepared statement.

"Our research indicates semiconductor scanners show great potential because of their high energy resolution and flexibility in both sizing and fine arrangement of detectors. These characteristics should lead to improved PET images and, in turn, major advances in the practice of nuclear medicine," Morimoto said in a prepared statement.

Morimoto and colleagues evaluated the performance of a prototype semiconductor-based PET brain scanner. Their findings were to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine, in New Orleans.

In another study presented at the meeting, Pakistani researchers said a nuclear imaging technique called scintigraphy was more effective than the traditional barium X-ray method in detecting gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in children with respiratory problems.

This study of 55 children found that scintigraphy -- in which a two-dimensional image is obtained through detection of radiation emitted by a radioactive source given to the body -- detected GERD in 66.6 percent of children.

"Unfortunately, reflux disease is a common problem in children, especially for those with respiratory problems. If left untreated, the disease can seriously impede children's health, growth and development, not to mention their quality of life. Our results show that scintigraphy is highly effective at safely diagnosing the condition," Wajiha Nasir, a researcher at the Nuclear Medicine Oncology and Radiotherapy Institute in Islamabad, said in a prepared statement.

In a third study, German researchers outlined a new technique they said will enable more accurate non-invasive PET imaging of new cells injected into the body. This technique involves engineering antibody fragments to act as reporter genes -- markers that signal cells of interest for PET imaging.

While genetic cell engineering shows promise, there are few reliable, noninvasive methods for accurately tracking the location, function and viability of small numbers of transplanted cells.

"Our research shows that using antibodies as reporter genes in PET imaging provides these capabilities and could contribute to improved treatment of a number of potentially devastating diseases," lead researcher Wolfgang Weber said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America has more about PET scans.

SOURCE: Society of Nuclear Medicine, news releases, June 16, 2008
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