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New x-ray technique images cartilage, may lead to earlier diagnosis of osteoarthritis

tapped for experiments. By placing a crystal in the path of the x-ray beam after it passes through an object, most of the scatter that degrades conventional x-rays is eliminated, resulting in sharper images that highlight the edges of objects and make them stand out against complex backgrounds. And, DEI delivers the same dose of radiation that conventional x-rays deliver, perhaps even less.

DEI works especially well for cartilage because it exists in very discrete shapes with clearly defined edges that DEI excels in picking up. Chapman and colleagues are now looking into developing DEI to screen for osteoarthritis in patients. Moving DEI into a clinical setting is definitely a challenge, says Chapman, but one that can be overcome. Currently, Chapman and his students are looking at alternative energy sources that mimic synchrotron radiation. Fortunately, DEI isnt reliant on the high energy of synchotron radiation, but on the alignment of the rays says Chapman. A prototype he is building of a small DEI machine at IIT uses a regular x-ray tube which has produced high-resolution DEI images comparable to those taken at Argonne. A clinical machine is still years away, but Chapman is confident that one day DEI will be available in hospitals and clinics.

Carol Muehleman, of Rush Presbyterian St. Lukes Medical Center in Chicago and one of the leading scientists working with Chapman on the research, is convinced that the new DEI technology has the potential to become an extremely valuable tool to physicians trying to detect osteoarthritis while the condition is in its early stages of development.

Right now we can only determine, by regular x-rays, if a person is losing their cartilage through degeneration by watching the spaces between their bones get smaller as the cartilage wears down, Muehleman says. With DEI, we would actually be able to see the cartilage and detect osteoarthritis much earlier for treatment.

The team of scientists
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Contact: Sharon Parmet
parmet@iit.edu
312-567-7997
Illinois Institute of Technology
17-Mar-2002


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