Philips Healthcare is working with the Methodist Hospital Research Institute in the US to develop new imaging systems that could help to trace the origin of an infectious disease epidemic.
The $8.6 million imaging suite provided by Philips for the research project includes MRI, PET-CT and SPECT-CT scanners and a C-arm X-ray device.
The suite will enable medical scientists to study the effects of different infectious disease agents on tissues and metabolism in a safe environment.
An airtight containment vessel linked to an external life support device will allow imaging of infected samples and research models without risk of exposure to patients or clinicians, while rapid scanning technology will be used to produce live time-series images.
The project will study the effects of biosafety level 3 pathogens (such as TB bacteria), working towards a facility for diagnosing infections in human patients through imaging.
Project leader and radiology chair King Li said: “The ability to have imaging suites that can handle high-level infectious agents allows us to be more prepared in the community for these types of events and, more importantly, allows us to study ways to deal with their consequences.”
“This imaging facility will be the first of its kind,” said James M. Musser, director of human infectious diseases research at the Methodist Hospital. “Our facility will permit us to translate critical new discoveries into the clinic, permitting accelerated development of novel diagnostic strategies and assessment of new therapeutic agents and vaccines.”
The long-goal of the partnership is to protect public health by enabling rapid diagnosis, prevention and treatment of epidemic infectious diseases, including possible identification of their origin.
“If the partnership with Philips is successful, The Methodist Hospital Research Institute can take the next steps toward creating the only clinic in the world expressly designed to image patients with infectious agents such as multi-drug-resistant TB,” said King Li.
“This will allow medical centres in the world to be more prepared for emerging diseases and bioterrorism.”
Ed Jones, VP of Operations for the Methodist Hospital Research Institute, summed up the project’s value: “Researchers at Methodist will be able to do live imaging studies that give them crucial information about how and where infections are progressing.
“This is what can happen when the best scientists and engineers from academia and industry become partners in advancing the state of the art in medical technology.”