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Researchers work to develop first total-body PET scanner: WMIC 16

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | September 09, 2016
Molecular Imaging

“This means you can consider using PET more frequently,” said Cherry. “For example, to track the trajectory of chronic diseases and interventions that you might be following.”

To date, Cherry and his team collaborated with Siemens Healthineers to build a small scale version of the system for primate total body imaging. They took existing detector technology from a clinical scanner and reconfigured it to cover the entire torso of a primate.

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The team is also building a mock up of the human scanner and they’re running into issues related to the interface between the technology, patient and scanner. They are looking into patient positioning, ways to communicate and monitor the patient, easing claustrophobia, bed design, and providing easy access for maintenance and replacing parts.

“The concept of a [total-body PET scanner] has been around for a long time,” Cherry told HCB News last October. “It’s not ‘rocket science.’” — but roadblocks such as cost, major technology challenges, and the ability to harness the amount of data generated by a total-body PET scanner were preventing the concept from being actualized.

Cherry's research is supported by a five-year, $15.5 million grant by the NIH High-Risk, High Reward Program — one of eight given in the NIH’s transformative research category in 2015.

In October, he anticipated the development timeline will include at least one year of testing to ensure the total-body PET scanner works properly. After that, Cherry expects human studies using the total-body PET scanner to commence in about four years.

The first human prototype of the scanner is expected to be ready in about four to five months.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated the whole body scanner increased sensitivity by 40 percent when it is actually 40 times more sensitive than current clinical PET/CT scanners.

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