Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

Canadian research produces commercial medical scanner with the world's best spatial resolution

Using a new Laboratory Positron Emission Tomography scanner designed by a team of multidisciplinary collaborators at the Université de Sherbrooke, medical researchers across Canada can more easily and effectively monitor disease processes in small animals, with the end goal to provide better treatment for people.

“Our team was able to evaluate our design concepts before building them by using tools and technologies provided by CMC. Without these resources, the design and eventual commercialization of the scanner would have taken many more years. Other research teams must work with companies to develop their application specific integrated circuits, but that route is very expensive and the technology developed does not always perform as desired.”

Dr. Réjean Fontaine
Director of Research Group for Medical Apparatus
Research Chair for Design of Medical Imaging Instrumentation
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Université de Sherbrooke

Oncology, cardiology, neurology, genetics and drug development are among the research fields that will benefit from the commercial release of a new Laboratory Positron Emission Tomography (LabPET™) scanner, developed at the Université de Sherbrooke.

The LabPET scanner was designed by Dr. Réjean Fontaine and Dr. Roger Lecomte, who is a nuclear medical physicist at the Université de Sherbrooke’s Clinical Research Centre. Commercialized by Gamma Medica-Ideas, and distributed by GE Medical, the scanner is central to health-related research at several institutions across Canada, where it is being used to visualize and quantify biological processes in test animals.

The power of the scanner comes from its high resolution—it represents the best spatial resolution amongst the world’s commercial scanners, revealing disease processes in images smaller than one millimetre in diameter. High-resolution scanners are required to better analyze a new drug’s evolution in the tiny organs of lab mice. Dr. Fontaine explains that the scanner’s fully digital architecture and real-time signal processing allow just one or two scientists to execute the complex research protocols in order to acquire an image—a significantly reduced number compared to traditional scanners.

CMC provided access to the fabrication technology required to develop the scanner’s low-noise, front-end electronics and supported the development of digital real-time signal processing, implemented in field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology.

Since 2004, the team has been able to shrink the ‘heart of the scanner’ to one-third its initial size. The team’s next challenge is to improve the spatial resolution of the system so that both computed tomography and positron emission tomography images can be acquired at once. Packaging and integration solutions will become critical as the electronics are further reduced down to 1 cm2 in order to accommodate the high density of the planned 8 x 8 arrays of pixel detectors.