First European hospital receives 3D colour X-ray scanner using CERN technology

Antoine Le Gall

Since 2008, CERN and the New Zealand company MARS Bioimaging have teamed up to develop a 3D colour X-ray scanner based on the Medipix3 technology, developed by the Medipix3 collaboration. Inspired by particle physics detectors, Medipix3 and Timepix3 chips are now used for medical applications, in space and for art authentication.

The scanner has now arrived in Europe, at Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) in Switzerland. This marks the first step towards the European part of the international clinical trials being undertaken by MARS Bioimaging to get the technology certified for medical use.

With the potential to monitor bone healing following a fracture, MARS Bioimaging’s scanner makes high-resolution imaging around metal implants possible and can distinguish between many different types of tissue without any use of contrast agents. Images of such precision will lead to significant progress in diagnosing hand and wrist fractures and monitoring the healing process.

The team of radiologists and medical physicists at CHUV is eager to start clinical use of the scanner. “The MARS scanner will allow us to improve our understanding of arthritis: how it develops and how to diagnose it. It should also help us develop the targeted therapies we are currently lacking for calcium crystal deposition diseases,” explains Dr Fabio Becce, Associate Physician and Senior Lecturer at CHUV.

“Trials of this technology in a Swiss hospital clearly demonstrate the pathway from experiments performed in a physics research laboratory to making a difference to patient healthcare,” adds Professor Anthony Butler, President of MARS Bioimaging.

“In June 2021, CERN and MARS Bioimaging extended their current contract by five years, thus supporting MARS Bioimaging on their way to obtaining US Food and Drug Administration and European Union approval,” explains Aurélie Pezous, from CERN’s Knowledge Transfer group. “The partnership between CERN, the Medipix3 collaboration and MARS Bioimaging shows how teaming up with health professionals is critical to fostering medical innovation.”

Beyond knowledge transfer, this cooperation highlights the potential of CERN alumni, several of whom have been involved in ensuring the scanner’s radiological safety. Among them is Lucia Gallego Manzano, a former CERN fellow in radiation protection who now works at the Institut de radiophysique (IRA) of CHUV.