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PET Scans

A technique that is especially useful in studying the processes in the brain.

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How do we create a 3D image of our bodies?

How do we create a 3D image of our bodies?

License: CC BY-NC 3.0


Movies, and specifically sci-fi films, have thrived off making futuristic devices to impress and us and usher us into a world of innovation.  What we don’t know, however, is that simpler prototypes of these devices exist in our world today.  Fascinated by those floating holograms?  Impressive scanning devices?  Well, positron emission tomography (PET) creates just that.  By using nuclear imaging, it is able to create a three dimensional projection of the human body.  The doctors put positron-emitting radionuclide tracers on biologically active molecules like fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), and the tracers allow the machines to detect gamma rays.  Meanwhile there is a x-ray computed tomography (CT) scan going on at the same time to help create the 3D image.  

Creative Applications

  1. Why is it important that we put the positron-emitting radionuclide on a biologically active molecule? 
  2. Why are PET scans usually paired with CT scans?
  3. What would be different if you paired a PET scan with a MRI scan instead?




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