Research News

World-leading Medical Imaging Laboratory Scanner Ready to Support Research at Khalifa University

May 25, 2022

The Medical Imaging Laboratory at Khalifa University has recently acquired the world’s latest spectral photon-counting computed tomography (CT) scanner (MARS Microlab 5X120). This equipment is the first of its type to be used in the GCC region to support laboratory/pre-clinical research.


The micro-CT research scanner uses x-ray energies relevant to the human diagnostic imaging range (20–140 keV) and a photon-processing detector that processes the energy of individually detected x-ray photons. The scanner provides high-resolution (<90-micron voxel size) non-destructive three-dimensional multi-energy CT images that are decomposed into material images based on the density and atomic composition of each material. The scanner can accommodate in vitro, in vivo, and excised biological samples sizes of up to 125 mm in diameter and 450 mm in length. 


Figure 1: Photon counting CT imaging in a patient with a screw fixation of the lunate. Metal related streak artefact from metal hardware is minimal in the sagittal (a) and coronal (b) plane.
Figure 2: A surgically removed carotid plaque taken from a 74 year old non-diabetic male smoker treated following a stroke. The plaque was photographed under white light using a macro-lens. (a) Excised specimen, as photographed under white light using a macro-lens before MARS imaging was performed as described in the text to generate an image of the plaque’s surface (b) MARS image of the plaque’s surface. (c) MARS material image. Calcium- rich regions are shown in white, lipid- rich are in yellow/white and water- dominated tissue in red. Subtraction of the water, lipid and calcium channels allows the iron- rich region to be visualized showing the extent of the intra-plaque hemorrhage (c).


The scanner is intended to be used for medical physics teaching and biomedical imaging research purposes. The Medical Imaging Laboratory is envisaged to become an imaging hub, providing a platform for local and international researchers that want to gain a better understanding of the use of scanner technology for their research. Technological advantages of the medical imaging platform in general and Mars photon-counting CT, in particular, will coincide with Khalifa University’s goal to contribute toward creating a knowledge-based sustainable economy in Abu Dhabi. The applications of the technology include, but are not limited to, developing artificial intelligence-based material reconstruction and metal artefacts reduction software, characterization of biosecurity and geological samples, development of dental and metal implants, exploring the development of targeted high-atomic number nanoparticles with theranostic capabilities, drug delivery quantification and characterization of biological specimens such as bone health, arthritis, cancer imaging and cardiovascular disease. 


Figure 3: Representative photon-counting CT images from MARS scanner: (a) Hand, 3D reconstruction of energy channel with positioning straps. (b) Hand, 3D reconstruction of bone. (c) Elbow, coronal slice from energy channel. (d) Wrist, sagittal slice from calcium (white), lipid (yellow) and water (red) channels. (e) Wrist, 3D reconstruction of calcium, lipid and water channels. (f) Wrist, 3D reconstruction of calcium, lipid and water channels.
Figure 4: Volumetric 3D calcium maps (a) after two weeks of treatment, (b) after four weeks of treatment, (c) after six weeks of treatment, and (d) after eight weeks of treatment. The arrows show the area of healing bone where the calcium density is increasing.


For more information and collaborative interest, please contact Dr. Aamir Raja (


Erica Solomon
Senior Publication Specialist
25 May 2022