Phase-contrast X-ray computed tomography for observing biological soft tissues

Nat Med. 1996 Apr;2(4):473-5. doi: 10.1038/nm0496-473.


Biological soft tissues are almost transparent to hard X rays and therefore cannot be investigated without enhancement with a contrast medium, such as iodine. On the other hand, phase-contrast X-ray imaging is sensitive to light elements (1-8). This is because the X-ray phase shift cross section is almost thousand times larger than the X-ray absorption cross section for light elements such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen (4,5). Hence, phase-contrast X-ray imaging is a promising technique for observing the structure inside biological soft tissues without the need for staining and without serious radiation exposure. We have devised a means of observing biological tissues in three dimensions using a novel X-ray computed tomography (CT) by modifying the phase-contrast technique. To generate appropriate CT input data, we used phase-mapping images obtained using an X-ray interferometer (6) and computer analysis of interference patterns (9). Now, we present a three-dimensional observation result of a nonstained sample of a cancerous rabbit liver, using a synchrotron X-ray source. Phase-contrast X-ray CT was able to clearly differentiate the cancer lesion from the normal tissue. Moreover, fine structures corresponding to cancerous degeneration and fibrous tissues were clearly depicted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rabbits
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*