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Wake Forest Mammography Invention Going to Market

A new type of mammography based on an imaging technology developed by a Wake Forest University School of Medicine faculty member and licensed by the school to Instrumentarium Imaging Inc. has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and likely will be ready for market shortly in the United States.

The technology, called Tuned-Aperture Computed Tomography or TACT, is a major advance in the field of three-dimensional imaging. It was developed in the laboratory of Richard Webber, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor of dentistry and radiologic sciences (medical engineering). It currently is being marketed in Europe.

TACT reconstructs a three-dimensional image from a series of two-dimensional images. These two-dimensional images can be the result of imaging techniques based on X-rays, nuclear medicine or even light as seen by a conventional camera.

Instrumentarium Imaging has developed a mammography device using TACT that allows radiologists to see objects -- tumors -- within the dense part of the breasts or other regions that otherwise might be obscured by overlying tissues. The 3-D reconstructions will aid in breast cancer detection.

The new technology also allows the radiologist to produce a series of electronic "slices" to look at each portion of the breast in greater detail.

According to Dean F. Stell, assistant director of the Office of Technology Asset Management at Wake Forest, TACT is the first three-dimensional imaging system to allow interactive three-dimensional visualization of breast tissues. He said the technology also has the potential to cut down on unnecessary biopsies.

"We are excited to see this technology reach the public through the medical school''s technology transfer efforts," Stell said.

Instrumentarium Imaging Inc. calls its TACT device the Delta 32 TACT three-dimensional breast imaging system, which will be available exclusively on Instrumentarium Imaging''s Diamond Breast Care System.

It turns Webber''s prototype into a Delta 32 digital camera to acquire images for the TACT reconstruction.

"We''re pleased that the technology is finally becoming commercialized," said Webber. "It''s a long road from idea to implementation."

According to Instrumentarium Imaging, AmeriNet Inc.-- the nation''s largest membership-based health care group purchasing organization -- has selected Instrumentarium Imaging as its supplier of mammographic imaging equipment. AmeriNet is comprised of three organizations -- AmeriNet Central of Warrendale, Pennsylvania; Intermountain Health Care Inc. of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Vector of Providence, RI, -- that have a combined membership of 14,790 facilities in all 50 states. Vector serves Virginia and the Carolinas.

Webber originally developed his TACT system as a way to improve dental diagnoses by allowing three-dimensional images of the teeth, pinpointing decay with greater precision.

Instrumentarium Imaging has developed a dental imaging system using TACT and the images produced that way can be imported into a computer program called Cliniview, which allows the dentist to manipulate and optimize image brightness and contrast and even to zoom in on a suspected defect.

"We''re currently working closely with Instrumentarium to come up with a dental machine to incorporate these capabilities in an automated fashion," Webber said.

TACT is one of the technologies that will be on display at the Connectivity Expo 2001, which will be held April 4-5 at the Benton Convention Center (www.triadconnectivity.net).

Webber sees other potential applications. "Particularly promising are microscopic uses and industrial applications ranging from looking for defects in castings to bomb disposal."

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