The Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston, Texas is getting a new high tech imaging suite designed to eventually handle patients with dangerous highly contagious diseases. The technology, co-developed with Philips, will allow a patient to go through pretty much every modern imaging modality without exposing clinicians, machines and the rest of the suite to the contagion.
The center expects to use the new technology, which includes an MRI, PET-CT scanner, SPECT-CT scanner, and a C-arm fluoroscope, among other things, to study how imaging can help identify various infectious diseases. Philips has been contracted to supply the various imaging systems.
From the announcement:
Air-tight containment vessels make it possible for samples and infected research models to be imaged without posing risks of exposure to patients, researchers or staff. Advanced technology also allows for rapid image scanning, so that time series imagery is possible.
“No one can do longitudinal imaging studies anywhere at the moment,” said Ed Jones, vice president of operations for The Methodist Hospital Research Institute. “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.”
Methodist will be the sole practical test site for the development of the technology.
The purpose of the suite is to study pathogens that require biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) containment. BSL-3 pathogens include the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.
A containment vessel will keep the subjects — initially model organisms — isolated from the unexposed space around it. Each vessel, or imaging cell, is accompanied by an external life support device on a transport trolley. The trolley is also used to maneuver the subject into place for imaging.
One of the project’s ultimate goals, Li said, is to develop a similar facility that is equipped to diagnose infectious diseases in a large influx of (human) patients.