Biomedical Engineering Blog

Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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The VIP-Man Medical Imaging System

Posted August 07, 2007 6:00 AM by shanlax

Belonging to a VIP club means that you're one very important person (VIP). But what if you're a machine? Thanks to Xie George Xu, head of a research team that is creating 3D virtual-patient models, there's a medical imaging system worthy of VIP status. Xu's research, which is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), is designed to deepen our understanding of "how electrons, neutrons, and protons interact with and cause damage to human tissues".

Xie George Xu's work combines anatomy (taken from a cadaver) with computer code. The VIP-Man can calculate contamination levels from exposure to radiological chemicals, or determine the dosage needed for bio-imaging tools such as the Biograph TruePoint PET∙CT. Dr. Xu's work also applies to nuclear medicine, which uses radioisotopes in therapy and diagnosis; and to radiation used in cancer treatments.

The VIP-Man takes medical imaging to a higher level by expanding our understanding of the dozens of tissue types which, in density and composition, form the human body. With older technologies, some of these tissues were too small to be physically-modeled. Yet they were also some of the most sensitive (e.g., skin and eye lenses) to radiation.

By enabling doctors to see how radiation affects the human body, the VIP-Man can serve as a powerful modeling tool for medical treatments. For example, by delivering radiation doses relative to the size of the patient, medical professionals can minimize possible damage to a person's DNA from X-ray scans.

Now that he's created the technology, Xie George Xu is studying clinical applications for adults and working to develop "virtual child patients" to model these same processes. Xu's work is geared to focusing on small children who receive more radiation relative to their body size then do adults. In addition to damaging DNA, excessive amounts of radiation can cause the development of cancer or have other long-term effects.

Fortunately, Dr. Xu's VIP-Man has already been used to improve photon therapy at Massachusetts General Hospital. In the future, Xu and his colleagues hope to develop VIP-Man medical imaging systems that can account for differences in size, age, and even ethnicity. Xu's work will advance our understanding of how radiation affects patients, and help doctors develop better treatments.

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