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Franz Pfeiffer appointed as Carl von Linde Senior Fellows at IAS

2015-01-23 – News from Physics Department

TUM’s Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) awards one of its Carl von Linde Senior Fellowships to Professor Franz Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer will use the Fellowship to develop a novel prototype for X-ray computed tomography (CT): the up-scaling of recent advances in dark-field X-ray imaging from in-vivo studies on small animals to first clinical studies for human diagnostics. The novel techniques promise X-ray tomography with unprecedented detail and thus may greatly enhance early detection and screening of important diseases, including lung emphysema or cancer.

Prof. Franz Pfeiffer
Professor Franz Pfeiffer

Conventional X-ray CT techniques produce images or 3D representations based on the difference in X-ray transmission of different bodily structures. The novel technique of dark-field imaging – developed in Pfeiffer’s research group – greatly enhances the contrast and sensitivity of X-ray images.

Due to the fact that both the wavelength and the interaction with matter are inherently different for visible light and X-rays, the experimental implementation is much more challenging for X-rays than in optical microscopy. Pfeiffer’s solution to the problem is an imaging interferometer using three diffraction gratings – a profound technological hurdle, considering the short wavelengths of X-rays compared to visible light and the large image areas required for medical imaging.

Development of first clinical dark-field CT prototype

Having established these novel techniques as a means of studying mice in-vivo with unprecedented detail, Franz Pfeiffer will use the fellowship program to solve the remaining technical and conceptual scientific challenges for a first implementation into a clinical dark-field CT prototype for human diagnostics. It is hoped that, once the technique can then finally be translated to the clinics, an early detection and screening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will become possible and allow early therapeutic interventions for a range of lung diseases.

The research will be carried out in interdisciplinary collaborations between physics and medicine, involving collaborations with the Klinikum Großhadern, the Klinikum rechts der Isar, and the Helmholtz Zentrum München under the framework of the Excellence Cluster Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics (MAP).

Carl von Linde Senior Fellowships at TUM

The IAS awards up to two Carl von Linde Senior Fellowships per year to outstanding TUM faculty members who “intend to develop innovative, high-risk topics in their scientific research areas, if possible within a trans-disciplinary team”.

TUM-IAS Fellowships last three years and offer the opportunity to fully devote time to the development of the new research area, completely unrestricted by teaching obligations or non relevant administrative functions. It is up to the awardee to plan the duration of the Fellowship according to his requirements.

different CT images of lung disease mouse models
First in-vivo preclinical attenuation and dark-field CT images of lung disease mouse models. Left: Fused attenuation- and dark-field-contrast CT 3D image with the lung signal overlaid in colour over the conventional gray-rendered CT image. Sub-panels: Tomographic slices (fusion images) of a healthy control mouse, an emphysematous mouse and a mouse with lung fibrosis. These images were recorded with a small-animal compatible total dose of ~300 mGy.
Dr. Johannes Wiedersich


Prof. Dr. Franz Pfeiffer
Technische Universität München
James-Franck-Str. 1
85748 Garching
Tel.: +49 89 289-10807
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