Nano-Computed Tomography: Technique and Applications

Rofo. 2016 Feb;188(2):146-54. doi: 10.1055/s-0041-106541. Epub 2016 Jan 27.


Nano-computed tomography (nano-CT) is an emerging, high-resolution cross-sectional imaging technique and represents a technical advancement of the established micro-CT technology. Based on the application of a transmission target X-ray tube, the focal spot size can be decreased down to diameters less than 400 nanometers (nm). Together with specific detectors and examination protocols, a superior spatial resolution up to 400 nm (10 % MTF) can be achieved, thereby exceeding the resolution capacity of typical micro-CT systems. The technical concept of nano-CT imaging as well as the basics of specimen preparation are demonstrated exemplarily. Characteristics of atherosclerotic plaques (intraplaque hemorrhage and calcifications) in a murine model of atherosclerosis (ApoE (-/-)/LDLR(-/-) double knockout mouse) are demonstrated in the context of superior spatial resolution in comparison to micro-CT. Furthermore, this article presents the application of nano-CT for imaging cerebral microcirculation (murine), lung structures (porcine), and trabecular microstructure (ovine) in contrast to micro-CT imaging. This review shows the potential of nano-CT as a radiological method in biomedical basic research and discusses the application of experimental, high resolution CT techniques in consideration of other high resolution cross-sectional imaging techniques.

Key points: Nano-computed tomography is a high resolution CT-technology for 3D imaging at sub-micrometer resolution. The technical concept bases on a further development of the established ex-vivo-micro-CT technology. By improvement of the spatial resolution, structures at a cellular level become visible (e.g. osteocyte lacunae).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • Biomedical Research
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / instrumentation*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Microcirculation / physiology
  • Nanotechnology / instrumentation*
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Osteocytes / pathology
  • Osteoporosis / pathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / instrumentation*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • X-Ray Microtomography / instrumentation*
  • X-Ray Microtomography / methods*