Futuristic space tool to help diagnose cancer
Sydney: Technology used to detect the echo of the Big Bang is being adapted for use in assessing burns and skin cancer.
Vincent Wallace, associate professor in medical physics at the University of Western Australia (UWA) said combining the novel technique with other high-resolution imaging methods could aid doctors in the fight against disease.
Terahertz rays or T-rays are at the opposite end of the spectrum to X-rays and, while not penetrating deeply, can provide images of burns and cancers including breast and gastro-intestinal without the danger of ionising radiation.
Combining T-rays with another technology called Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), which provides cross-sectional scans of tissues very much like ultrasound but at a higher resolution, could be used to detect early-stage cancers that do not show up on X-ray or through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
T-rays and OCT will help surgeons determine the margins of tumours before or during surgery and assess the depth of burns, translating data into clear on-screen images.
In future, they will complement existing technologies like X-ray and MRI adding to the arsenal of techniques doctors can use to diagnose and treat disease.
Terahertz technology has been in use since the 1990s but has only recently begun to be developed for use in medical applications, said a UWA release.