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New imaging approach 3D photoacoustic tomography could overcome limitations of other fatty liver disease diagnostic techniques

16 February 2023

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There are many tools at doctors’ fingertips to diagnose non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – a very common condition – including ultrasound, MRI and CT scans, and biopsy. But each of these have drawbacks, ranging from expense and risk (particularly in biopsies) to unsuitability for patients with certain implants (MRI scanning). So researchers are exploring non-invasive alternatives such as photoacoustic tomography (PAT). PAT uses both light and sound waves to generate detailed images, interpreting ultrasound waves given off by structures when laser light is fired onto them. Previously, the technology couldn’t visualise blood vessel detail and movement, but a new iteration, 3D-PAT, overcomes those limitations to precisely reveal liver vessel volume, number, and distribution (as seen in this video) while carefully correcting for the natural movement caused by regular breathing. They used the technique to compare structural differences between obese and lean rats, and hope this approach could ultimately provide quick, safe information for doctors and patients.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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