Acoustic imaging shows promise for early diagnosis of tumours

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Recent results from the Engineering Science Department of the University of Oxford have demonstrate the effectiveness of its Oxford Electromagnetic Acoustic Imaging (OxEMA) technology. OxEMA is a healthcare imaging technology offering superior diagnostic power to conventional ultrasound systems and MRI-like images.

The results showed that OxEMA clearly identifies artificially introduced abnormalities (mimicking a stone and tumours), in a sheep's kidney, which are not clearly differentiated using conventional ultrasound.

OxEMA's technology uses a combination of electro-magnetic and acoustic waves in order to create medical images at a cost comparable to ultrasound. The benefits of this are much greater clarity of image and excellent tissue-type characterisation in this price bracket. The technology is non-ionising and thus offers a clear benefit over x-ray and CT scanning.

OxEMA has the potential to enable better, earlier diagnosis of numerous conditions and tumours, including some or all of breast, liver, kidney and thyroid cancer, as well as having applications in orthopaedics and other clinical areas. The technology provides an automatically registered, overlaid EMA image on top of the ultrasound image, providing the ability to simultaneously assess the electrical and mechanical properties of the same piece of tissue, with considerably improved diagnostic power.

Professor David Edwards, who leads this research at the Department of Engineering Science, said: 'OxEMA has the capability of producing MRI-like images, because it utilises the electromagnetic properties of tissue as the contrast mechanism. Using the electromagnetic signature of the identified targets, the technology has the potential to be used in the classification and identification of specific tissue types. We are now working towards building an imaging system that can be used in a clinical environment.'

OxEMA is a proposed Isis spinout company seeking investment to take patented OxEMA technology through its initial critical clinical, engineering and regulatory stages. OxEMA is envisaged to have potential non-medical applications which make it even more attractive.

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