A computer tomography (CT) team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) faced an unusual challenge as part of a nano-CT project discussed in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year: they had problems seeing the patient, let alone the scan.
That’s because the CT in question was of a velvet worm or onychophoran, an invertebrate that can be as small as half a centimetre long.
Zoologists from the University of Kassel enlisted TUM’s help in trying to analyse the worms, but first the TUM team had to come up with a new way of achieving high-resolution CT scans of objects so small.
The team invented a new x-ray source which, in combination with an extremely low-noise detector, “produces images that approach the resolution possible with a scanning electron microscope,” says TUM.
The investigators say the technology could help spot malignant tumours from tissue samples, for example. It is also pretty good for looking at very small worms.