Medical imaging challenges

Medical imaging s a century-old subject, the spectacular developments of which have more than once revolutionized medical practice, ever since Wilhelm Roentgen X-rayed the squeleton of his wife’s hand which had been exposed to a beam of X-rays. Since this discovery (which it is good to remind that it was accidental) the other diagnostic approaches of human tissues have seen the light, such as isotopic imaging, computed tomography ( CT), ultrasounds, fluoroscopy, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Nowadays, imaging allows not only to visualize anyone’s organ in its very details, but it also gives access to the mechanism of action of the main diseases. It shows us in a striking way, in three dimensions and in color, the contractions of the myocardium or sections of the abdomen or the brain. It can also be used to show the flow of water along nerve fibers or along blood in the arteries, to visualize cells either being born or dying within a tumor or antibodies fighting an infection, to practise a virtual coloscopy, or even to see how feelings , such as the fear or the love, within the brain.

At the same time, the progress made in biology with, among others, the decoding of the human genome, has opened amazing perspectives of diagnosis and therapy, and has motivated the need for a technique: the multimodal molecular imaging. Today, the latter relies on isotopic imaging coupled with X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging which provides more and more precise imaging, and also allows to analyze and to quantify the main metabolic functions at the cellular scale. In fact, it is not only necessary to detect diseases but also to identify them, to estimate their aggressiveness, to quantify their reaction to a therapy in order to optimize the latter. It is also necessary to assist surgeons, to enable them to finalize their operating strategy by way of virtual representations of the patient and by following in real-time the movement of their instruments within the complex environment of the human body.

All this progress can only develop with a voluntarist, multidisciplinary and coordinated action.

PET imaging concept

The new generation of instruments is based on significant breakthroughs resulting from technological leaps and bounds of physics, material, optics, electronics sciences, information technologies, as much so as in the field of molecular biology and medical sciences.

This approach must be as dynamic and interactive as possible between the developers of imaging ystems, physicians, engineers, IT specialists, chemists and the users,whether they be clinicians or biologists, and in close partnership with the industry.

There will be a particular emphasis on a new generation of systems of highly sensitive molecular imaging systems with very good spatial and temporal resolution, with real multimodal capacities, which will enable one to associate during the same examination: molecular, functional and morphological imaging.

The aim is to reach in a precise, rapid and quantitative way the characterization of major pathologies which could be individual by non invasive and low-dose approaches. This should result in a better care of patients, for screening, diagnosis, and therapy, with an obvious impact on the patients’ comfort and the cost for the society.

PET imaging of a metastasized cancer patient

PET-CT imaging of a partially-necrosed lung tumor after treatment
(thanks to D. Townsend, UPMC, USA)

PET-CT imaging of a vertebral tumor (thanks to D. Townsend, UPMC, USA)

  • The CERIMED project introduction (2005) Nota : many informations have evolved since this document’s parution.