As NIH heads to clinic with photon-counting CT, Hitachi and Redlen partner to develop one

The Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said last month that it would test a photon-counting CT scanner for the first time on humans. This is the first hospital-based research of this sort of device with more than 45 participants enrolled in the trial. The NIH noted that only three sites globally use this sort of technology.

The prototype technology is expected to offer the image quality of conventional CT scanning, but also offer a better look inside the body through multi-energy imaging. It also offers only a minimum dose of radiation. The expectation is that this sort of tech will enable more detailed views of tumors, plaques or vessels smaller than a half a millimeter and that it can more accurately identify soft tissues such as proteins, tendons or collagen.

Now, imaging specialist Hitachi Medical has partnered with Canadian startup Redlen Technologies to develop the direct conversion semiconductor x-ray detector module necessary to create one of these new photon counting computed tomography systems (PCCT). Founded in 1999, Saanichton, BC-based Redlen manufactures high resolution Cadmium Zinc Telluride (CZT) semiconductor radiation detectors for use across industries including medical imaging, security and nondestructive testing.

"PCCT is a promising next generation device which achieves radiation exposure reduction, high functionality and high degree of precision. It is expected to broaden the field of application," Masaya Watanabe, Hitachi VP and president and CEO of the Healthcare Group, said in a statement. "I hope this agreement will provide opportunities for us to further contribute to healthcare innovation."

The partners expect that photon counting CT systems will offer new capabilities including material discrimination, much higher image resolution and functional imaging--all with a further reduction of dose radiation.

Redlen has developed semiconductor radiation sensors that are able to measure the unique energy of individual x-ray photons, while still operating at very high count rates and stability levels. Hitachi will have exclusive use of the co-developed detector modules based on these sensors.

As for the NIH, it's made a major commitment to photon counting CT technology; its clinical testing is expected to extend for five years under the direction of Dr. David Bluemke, the chief of the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences. The Clinical Center at the NIH expects to be able to develop scan protocols and image processing algorithms, as well as to improve screening, imaging, and treatment planning for indications including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

- here is the NIH announcement
- and here is the Hitachi, Redlen deal release