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A photo safari of the body

Thanks to MedViz research, the chances of discovering diseases early are improving. This month MedViz welcomes guests to its 6th annual conference in Bergen.

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Medical imaging technology has improved greatly in the last few years. MedViz is a research and development cluster that has developed one such medical imaging technology. MedViz is a research collaboration between the University of Bergen (UiB), Christian Michelsen Research (CMR) and Haukeland University Hospital.

Developing new methods

In short, the method developed by MedViz uses internal ultrasound, magnets and isotopes. This allows doctors to capture detailed pictures of internal organs and makes it easier quickly to diagnose the patient and to avoid costly operations. Surgery can often be avoided as a result.

– Pictures become more and more important, Odd Helge Gilja says. Gilja is Adjunct Professor at the UiB’s Institute of Medicine, where he is with the Section for Gastroenterology.

– Time is of the essence, Gilja points out. – It is of utter importance to speed up the process from diagnosis to treatment. Also there is political pressure, as patients in Norway are not supposed to wait for too long before getting an operation. Any tool that shortens the time from diagnosis to treatment is a boon. Now we can perform several procedures at once, which in the past had to be done over time.

Discovering the tumours

PhD Candidate at the Institute for Medicine Roald Flesland Havre is actively using the research tools developed at MedViz. He demonstrates this by putting a tube with a camera attached down the throat of an elderly patient. So as to better perform the internal ultrasound procedures. These pictures can then be compared to other images from the same area of the body – such as CT, MRI or PET – and lead to the discovery of anything from harmless cysts to malignant tumours.

– The pictures are crucial for successful results, Flesland Havre says. – We treat a lot of elderly patients and new imaging techniques enable us to figure out what sort of tumour it may be. Where applicable, performing a small operation rather than a large can be of great importance to the patient. When a patient is 80 or older, large-scale operations can be harmful. Instead, our aim is to treat the patient from the inside.

Steaming ahead

MedViz has become a permanent fixture of the research environment in Bergen. And on 17 January, the city hosts the 6th MedViz conference in medical imaging and visualisation where researchers from a number of countries meet to share experiences.

– One point on the agenda is molecular medicine, Odd Helge Gilja says. – In the future we will probably be able to wrap tiny bombs directed at the tumours and that detonate inside the body. We are talking micro-bubbles that are crushed by way of ultrasound.

This photo safari of the body may turn out to save many lives in the future. Gilja is optimistic about future research collaborations at MedViz.

– The MedViz collaboration is unique. This project is the envy of many of our international colleagues. We are a large group who see each other regularly and get to discuss the scientific measures properly. Best of all is that it is working – and may end up helping many people, Gilja says.