by Shane Woods, Senior Study Director
The younger sibling of a medical innovation is bringing big value to the research laboratory. Micro-computed tomography, also known as micro-CT or mCT, delivers exceptionally high- resolution microscopic images of tiny biological samples, helping scientists better understand the effects of emerging medical treatments.
The story of micro-CT begins in the 1970s. Medical professionals began using computer-processed X-ray images to create picture “slices” (or tomographs) of their patients; call it virtual exploratory surgery without scalpels. The technology, still widely used today, greatly enhanced diagnostics and therapeutic care.
Over the next couple of decades, researchers found ways to enhance the technology to create images with pixels in the micrometer range. Sophisticated computer software uses those tiny cross-sections to create three-dimensional models that can be studied from multiple angles. That’s especially helpful in analyzing a biological sample—its density, geometry, and microarchitecture—and doesn’t require destroying it.
Much of our work, in micro-CT, at MPI Research involves bones and teeth, plus we have the skillset to analyze other dense materials. We generate high-resolution 2D and 3D images of small samples down to 1.25mm; even our largest samples can be scanned with a resolution of 34.2mm.
The system in use in our laboratory is the Scanco mCT100, which we installed last October. The µCT 100 enables us to scan samples up to 100mm in diameter and 120mm in length. Our system operates at 30 to 100 kVp, allowing us to scan a variety of samples ranging from soft tissues to samples that contain metal. The µCT 100 is also fitted with a 12 sample carousel that allows for higher sample through-put and increases our efficiency. Not only is it state-of-the-art for micro-CT work, Scanco Medical is a pioneer in the field, having produced high-resolution CT systems since 1988. It’s the right fit with our team, which brings many years of experience in specimen preparation and micro-CT imaging.
Of course, this capability is about much more than interesting pictures and 3D models. The mCT100 is equipped with analytical tools that allow us to evaluate samples based on bone volume, density, trabecular and cortical bone morphometry, and further measures. We’re also able to perform extremely precise, accurate measurements to determine structural characteristics.
Micro-CT matters come down to what the analysis reveals about how new devices and procedures impact patients. We have the ability to see that impact at a microscopic level. Coupled with other analytical tools, such as biomechanical testing, micro-CT generates a wealth of data that is crucial to understanding exactly what an emerging orthopaedic treatment or surgical procedure does, whether it’s beneficial to patients, and whether to take it to the next level of development.
As the demand for this kind of precision grows—and innovators drive that precision further—our team at MPI Research is keeping pace. Sponsors can count on our expertise and our ‘little brother’ to deliver big results.
Shane Woods, MS, MBA, is a Senior Study Director at MPI Research. To learn more about our Micro-CT testing expertise, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.