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INEEL researchers develop medical imagery breakthrough

Mammograms, X-rays and other pricey medical scans do little good if doctors can't see the tiny changes that signal early stages of disease. But such warning signs are often too subtle to spot by eye, and too complex for computers to interpret. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory have developed the Change Detection System, technology that highlights slight differences between digital images. In fact, lead researcher Greg Lancaster convinced doctors of the program's power when he used it to compare scans of his own brain after he'd had a tumor removed. One medical technology firm is already looking to license the program.

This medical advance is a direct result of applying national security technology, which was initiated through funding from the DOE's Applied Technology Program. The CDS software is so quick, easy and affordable that it now boasts a spot among the 100 most technologically significant products introduced in the past year. R&D Magazine editors notified the winners in July and will feature the winning products in the September issue.

Medical imaging often involves comparing side-by-side images to see if changes have emerged. But discerning minuscule differences between two pictures can be nearly impossible. Computers even struggle with the task, laboriously scrutinizing each pixel and often finding only trivial differences in camera angle.

In the past, the best technology available for comparing images has been the flip-flop technique, which capitalizes on the visual reflex that draws our eyes toward motion. Rapidly alternating between two similar digital images on a screen creates an animation effect where identical elements seem stationary and differences appear as movement. But the flip-flop approach requires that both pictures be shot from the exact same position using a mounted camera. Since stationary cameras are impractical in many cases, flip-flop comparisons are
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Contact: Nicole Stricker
strinl@inel.gov
208-526-5729
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory
11-Aug-2003


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