Xiaochun Lai and Jon George, students of NPRE Associate Prof. Ling-Jian Meng, hold the compact gamma detector, the key component of the attitudinal compound eye camera the group is developing.A new device NPRE Associate Prof. Ling-Jian Meng and his students have developed should greatly improve sensitivity and resolution capabilities available through radiological imaging.

The advanced technology holds promise for gamma camera use in mainstream nuclear medicine, and could lead to the development of gamma ray microscopes in biological laboratories.

Meng’s device increases by several thousand the number of micro cameras used for single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging. The key innovation of the group’s artificial compound eye (ACE) gamma camera for SPECT Imaging is the combination of state-of-the-art ultrahigh resolution semiconductor detector technologies and advanced aperture fabrication techniques into a highly sensitive gamma camera design for SPECT imaging.

“This might open great possibilities in the future for SPECT imaging,” Meng predicts.

Recent advances in detector technology and readout electronics that have resulted in the rapid decrease in detector size have allowed the group to pack more cameras into a much smaller space. Previously, a typical gamma camera could be 40 by 40 centimeters in size; now they could be shrunk to a few centimeters, Meng said. While current SPECT instruments held fewer than 100 cameras previously, they can now contain up to tens of thousand micro-camera elements. These improvements allow for more options in focusing the mini cameras and optimizing the visible area.

Meng said the new device provides very detailed spatial resolution while focusing on a very small number of cells to image.

His group currently holds a utility patent on their device, which is biologically inspired in mimicking and inverting the vision of a fruit fly. The group is working with colleagues from Harvard Medical School and Brookhaven National Laboratory on the research, which the National Institutes of Health is funding.

Meng said remaining challenges are the cost of materials for hardware and the need to gather together expertise in several areas: detector physics, image processing, system integration, biology and chemistry. This work is supported by a new grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).