New type of CT scan may help researchers analyze osteoporosis

A novel nano-tomography method developed by a team of researchers from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen, the Paul Scherrer Institute and the ETH-Zurich brings new light to computed tomography examinations of minute structures, such as osteoporosis-related fractures. Their first nano-CT images were recently published in the journal Nature.

In most clinical research, osteoporosis is diagnosed by establishing an overall reduction in bone density. However, this approach gives little information about the associated local structure and bone density changes.

"With our newly developed nano-CT method it is now possible to visualize the bone structure and density changes at high resolutions and in 3D," said Franz Pfeiffer, professor for biomedical physics at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and head of the research team. "This enables us to do research on structural changes related to osteoporosis on a nanoscale and thus develop better therapeutic approaches."

During development, Pfeiffer's team built an X-ray computed tomography. Its basic principle involves taking multiple X-ray pictures from various directions, before using these images to generate digital 3D images of the body's interior using image processing.

This method may lead the way to more studies on the early phase of osteoporosis.