Dark-field images, which provide more detail than ordinary x-ray radiographs, could be used to diagnose the onset of osteoporosis, breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the EPFL said that their technique could facilitate the production of dark-field images from ordinary x-ray equipment, already in place in hospitals around the world. This development attains significance as dark-field x-ray imaging, so far, required sophisticated optics and could only be produced at facilities like the PSI’s 300m-diameter, 200 million dollars synchrotron. As compared to traditional x-ray images that show a simple absorption contrast, dark-field images capture the scattering of radiation within the material itself, and, thereby, expose subtle inner changes in bone or soft tissue. The researchers said that the improved sensitivity in measuring bone density and hairline fractures might be helpful in diagnosing the onset of osteoporosis. The dark-field x-ray imaging might also make for an early diagnosis of breast cancer and the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease by equipping medical practitioners the ability to explore soft tissue.
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