Explorer total-body scanner combines PET and CT scanning for unique internal views

To better diagnose and treat all sorts of medical conditions, researchers and physicians are continually working on new tests and technology. One such new technology is a total-body scanner called Explorer that is the first medical imaging scanner in the world that can capture a 3D picture of the entire human body all at once. The very first scans from the device have been made public, and they are incredibly detailed.

Explorer combines both positron emission tomography (PET), and X-ray computed tomography (CT) scans into one device. The design of the machine allows it to capture radiation much more efficiently than other scanners. Increasing radiation capture means that the device can produce an image in as little as a second.

Given more time, Explorer can produce movies that can track specially tagged drugs as they move through the body. The new diagnostic tool has applications for improving diagnostics and monitoring the progression of a disease over time. Development of the scanner was in a partnership with United Imaging Healthcare based in Shanghai; this company will eventually build the scanners and make them available on the healthcare market. The scanner itself was invented by UC Davis scientists Simon Cherry and Ramsey Badawi.

Cherry said that he had imagined what the scans would look like, but was unprepared for the "incredible detail" that was available. The scientists say that the images produced allowed them to see features inside the body you don't see on regular PET scans.

Development of the scanner was funded with a $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute in 2011 and followed up with another $15.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2015. Explorer scans 40 times faster than current PET scans and can produce a diagnostic scan of the entire body in 20-30 seconds while dosing patients with 40 times less radiation than a current PET scan.