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Bones in motion: Brown scientists to create new 3-D X-ray system

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] Brown University researchers are creating a technology that will allow doctors and scientists to do the seemingly impossible: See inside living humans and animals and watch their bones move in 3-D as they run, fly, jump, swim and slither.

This high-resolution, high-speed imaging system will contribute to better treatments for knee, shoulder, wrist and back injuries and help scientists understand the evolution of complex movements, from the flight of birds to the leap of frogs.

"This will be like having X-ray vision you'll be able to see through skin and muscle and watch a skeleton move in 3-D," said Elizabeth Brainerd, the Brown University biology professor overseeing development of the new system. "Imagine animated X-ray movies of flying bats or flexing knees. It's very cool technology that is also very important from a biomedical standpoint."

The system will be designed and built with a $1.8-million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations and a major supporter of pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research.

The system will fill a void in medical and scientific imaging. Right now, researchers trying to understand the complex motions of bones and joints are held back by technology. Computed tomography, or CT, delivers detailed 3-D images, but CT scanners are too slow to capture rapid motion. Cinefluoroscopy, a technique that uses X-rays to view objects, can produce moving images in two dimensions, but not 3-D.

An orthopedic surgeon trying to figure out the best way to repair a torn knee ligament or an evolutionary biologist tracing the disappearance of digits in pigs would face a difficult task. To see the exact position and movement of bones and the ligaments, tendons and cartilage that surround them, would require cutting into flesh not a desirable option.

The new system, dubbed
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Contact: Wendy Lawton
Wendy_Lawton@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
1-Feb-2007


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