Kiwis help develop colour X-ray machine

17:00, May 18 2010
Canterbury University professor Phil Butler, right, with his son, Anthony Butler
HI-TECH: Canterbury University professor Phil Butler, right, with his son, Anthony Butler, says the Medipix All Resolution Systems scanner makes better diagnoses.

A revolutionary colour X-ray machine built by Christchurch researchers will be introduced to United States plastic surgeons next week.

The Medipix All Resolution Systems (Mars) CT (computerised tomography) scanner creates true-colour X-rays using technology developed at Canterbury University and Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research on the border of France and Switzerland.

Christchurch plastic surgeon Peter Walker, who has followed the project, will deliver a presentation about the scanner to the US Plastic Surgery Research Council conference in San Francisco on Monday.

An international project co-ordinated by a team including Canterbury University physics professor Phil Butler and his son, University of Otago, Christchurch, director of bioengineering and clinical radiologist Anthony Butler, built the first animal-scanner prototype at Canterbury 3 1/2 years ago.

Phil Butler said the machine made condition diagnoses more accurate, quicker and cheaper.

"There are lots of times where in an ordinary CT scan you can't really tell what's happening, so you might get an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] scan or ultrasound, or even both, to try to sort out what is happening. But if you can have this colour information, it can help diagnosis."


The Mars' key component, the X-ray camera, was a "spinoff" from the Large Hadron Collider – the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator – that was developed by Cern, he said.

The scanner was believed to be the first commercially available colour CT system.

The animal scanner retailed for about US$300,000 (NZ$409,000), while a human scanner would be about US$2 million (NZ$2.73m), Butler said.

Human scanners could be built within the next two to five years, he said. About 30 researchers from Otago and Canterbury universities are involved in the project.

The Press