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Dean Connor, Jr., Ph.D.

Dean M. Connor, Jr., PhD, is working to refine an imaging technique known as diffraction enhanced imaging (DEI) and to adapt it to clinical applications. In contrast to traditional radiography, which relies primarily on absorption for contrast, DEI exploits two additional contrast mechanisms:  refraction and ultra-small-angle scatter rejection (extinction). The small-angle nature of refraction and scatter rejection make them largely undetectable by typical x-ray technology. By incorporating crystal-based optics, DEI is able to recover refraction and extinction data that would otherwise be lost and use them to enhance contrast. Because it provides much better contrast and imaging detail of soft tissue, it shows special promise for the early detection of breast cancer. Relying on refraction and extinction, it can provide higher contrast with a lower absorbed radiation dose. Connor has taken a step toward making DEI clinically available by showing that the technique works using a commercial x-ray tube as the radiation source. However, if the clinical potential of DEI is to be realized, imaging times must be shortened. Connor has reduced that time from 24 hours to 20 minutes, making significant progress toward a clinical goal for breast imaging of 10 seconds or less. He has also shown DEI to effectively image lung and musculoskeletal tissue (ie, bone and cartilage) and has used it to study amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease. Connor actively seeks collaborations with clinical colleagues at MUSC with expertise in cancers of the breast and lung, other lung diseases, osteoporosis, and neurological disease.


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