UC Davis’s EXPLORER Program Takes Aim at Full-Body PET Scanner

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UC Davis’s EXPLORER Program Takes Aim at Full-Body PET Scanner.

The EXPLORER consortium, based out of UC-Davis, aims to build a revolutionary total-body PET (positron emission tomography) scanner and has announced the selection of two industry partners to help build the prototype device. They are United Imaging Healthcare America, a North American subsidiary of Shanghai United Imaging Healthcare, and SensL Technologies of Cork, Ireland.

Positron emission tomography, or PET, scanning uses short-lived radioactive tracers to show how organs and tissues are functioning in the body, while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans mostly show anatomy. PET scans are widely used to diagnose and track a variety of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

With over 560,000 detector elements, the EXPLORER scanner can view all organs of the body at once, versus conventional PET scanner models that can only image a small part of the body at a time. The EXPLORER model represents a 40-fold increase in effective signal over the current technology, which both helps to improve image quality and to reduce radiation exposure to patients.

Impact on diagnostics and treatment

Total-body PET scanning has the potential to impact clinical diagnostics, enable new fields of research and facilitate development of cures for a wide range of human diseases.

“A system with this detection sensitivity will dramatically improve our ability to study cancer and other diseases as well as advance diagnostic capabilities in our industry,” said lead researcher Simon Cherry, professor in the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The EXPLORER consortium selected United Imaging Healthcare (UIH) America to build the first prototype total-body PET scanner after an extensive review of potential commercial partners.

“We are very proud to be selected to be part of the EXPLORER consortium and provide the system design support required to deliver a system capable of outstanding performance,” said Hongdi Li, CEO of UIH America.

The detector technology in the scanner will incorporate the latest generation solid-state silicon photomultiplier light sensors, instead of the vacuum-based photomultiplier tubes used in conventional PET scanners.

“The use of silicon photomultiplier technology is rapidly replacing older photomultiplier tube technologies and provides improved resolution for a system of this scale,” said Bryan Campbell, CEO of SensL, which will supply the detectors.

“We believe we have gathered leaders in the medical imaging field to quickly and cost effectively bring this technology to reality in an exciting and innovative way,” said Ramsey Badawi, professor of radiology at UC Davis and co-leader of the project.

Delivery of the prototype scanner is expected in 2018.

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