Piercing the body with precision

The scalpel is giving way to the scan—at least in some cases of cancer.
New imaging technologies are raising hopes that doctors soon will be able to locate tumors with pinpoint accuracy, and track their hour-by-hour response to treatment—without the need for surgery.
Coupled with recent advances in genetics and molecular biology, imaging is speeding the discovery and evaluation of safer, more effective treatments that can stop tumors in their tracks.
“In the past 10 years we’ve made tremendous strides in improving imaging of cancer,” says Dennis E. Hallahan, M.D., chairman of Radiation Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “In the near future we will be using functional imaging to image pre-cancer.”  read article

Picturing the mind at work

Since the discovery of the X-ray, scientists have tried to take pictures of the mind at work.

One hundred ten years later, they have never been closer.

Soon it may be possible to predict—and avert—the development of drug addiction, to individualize therapy for schizophrenia and other disorders, and to preserve and even augment brain function.  read article

Nora Volkow: Two paths to the future

Emboldened by her groundbreaking imaging studies, Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is determined to transform the way addicts are treated by the medical profession and the criminal justice system. While she sees this as part of her duty as a physician, Volkow also acknowledges the world-changing legacy of her great-grandfather, Leon Trotsky.  read article

Brave New Visions

Merck scientist Richard Hargreaves and neuroethicist Judy Illes discuss the challenges of imaging technology. Can imaging lower the cost of new drugs? Are there places we shouldn't go?  read article

Leroy Hood: Discovery Science

Leroy Hood is known as the father of biotechnology for the development of groundbreaking biomedical instrumentation. Now he’s calling for a revolution of thought – an interdisciplinary, systems approach to biological discovery that challenges conventional wisdom about how research is conducted. A lifetime of influences, opportunities and challenges has led Hood to this, his meridian hour.  read article

New views of heart disease

Advances in imaging techniques over the past five years have vastly improved the ability to diagnose and treat cardiac disease, but that’s just the beginning.  read article

Guest editorial – John C. Gore, Ph.D.

After X-rays were first discovered in 1895, their strange and wonderful properties were almost immediately exploited for medical uses. They gave physicians for the first time the ability to “see” inside the human body non-invasively, and a whole new medical specialty, diagnostic radiology, was created. A little over a century later, a similar revolution is occurring with the development of a multitude of advanced technologies capable of providing a broad array of information to biomedical scientists and clinicians.  read article

The power of dopamine

The dopamine system evolved as a way to help ensure the survival of the species. Surges of dopamine accompany the consumption of food, the sexual act and the drive to be part of a group. Yet dopamine is more than a chemical of pleasure and reward. It is a messenger of salience.  read article

Social status and addiction

Can stress and social standing influence brain chemistry and vulnerability to addiction?

That intriguing possibility is supported by a study in monkeys conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The researchers used PET to measure changes in levels of dopamine D2 receptors in macaques that were placed together after being housed separately.  read article

Autopsy of the living

On the evening of November 8, 1895, an accidental discovery ushered in a scientific and medical revolution that would allow us to see inside the living human body for the first time.

While conducting an experiment with cathode rays, Wilhelm Roentgen, Ph.D., noticed a strange glow on a distant cardboard screen. Knowing that cathode rays could not pass through the obstacles between his cathode ray tube and the glow, he proposed the existence of a novel type of penetrating ray, which he called the “X-ray.” After spending several solitary weeks analyzing the rays, Roentgen published his findings in late December, along with an eerie X-ray photograph (radiograph) of his wife’s hand.  read article

How to Make an Atomic Drug

Robert Baldwin, Ph.D., is on the front lines of a major national effort to develop new radiotracers, not only to improve understanding of brain diseases but to speed drug development.

It’s an ambitious task.  read article

The brain at rest

The human brain is an energy glutton. Comprising only about 2 percent of body weight, it consumes nearly 20 percent of the body’s oxygen intake. Why does the brain need so much energy, even when it is at rest?

Marcus Raichle, M.D., a member of the Washington University team that developed PET in the 1970s, believes he may have an answer.  read article

Seeing the shimmer of biology in action

Fireflies are a source of wonder to children and adults alike. Scientists have discovered how to harness their biological glow, called bioluminescence, to reveal secrets from inside living animals. The chemical reaction that produces light can be used to follow cancer cell metastasis, stem cell migration, gene expression, and protein activity, all as they are happening in vivoread article

A Closer Look at Drugs

Just as imaging technologies are guiding and, in some cases, replacing the scalpel, they are revolutionizing the evaluation of new cancer drugs.

Traditionally, a drug’s effectiveness has been determined by its impact on patient survival, or by measuring the diameter of a tumor on a series of X-rays or CT scans taken over the course of several weeks.  read article

Firefly’s glow reveals stem cell role in mending fractures

A bone fracture appears to be a relatively simple medical problem to solve: cast it, wait, and everything will be fine. For about 10 percent of fracture patients though, healing doesn’t come easily. These patients, 600,000 people every year in the United States, require bone grafts or synthetic prostheses to mend their breaks.  read article

Peeking into the womb

One of the most powerful applications of imaging science is the diagnosis of fetal abnormalities.  read article