A technology designed for high-energy physics helped revolutionize medical imaging, thanks to Berkeley Lab’s team science model.
Physicist Steve Holland developed an ultra-sensitive charge-coupled device (CCD) and photodiode for a new gamma ray detector in a supercollider project. The supercollider project was cancelled, but William Moses, in Berkeley Lab’s biosciences area, heard about the diode and thought it could be adapted as a light sensor used in medical imaging. He reasoned that if the diode could track faint scintillations in gamma-ray detectors, perhaps it could follow radionuclide tracers used in medical scans.
The researchers partnered with other researchers to develop the technology and present their concept to experts in the imaging field. Ultimately, Digirad Corporation licensed Berkeley Lab’s fully depleted, back-illuminated CCD and photodiode to create portable, solid state gamma cameras. Digirad’s compact imager weighs around 400 pounds and can be wheeled into a doctor’s office — a huge improvement over standard, stationary cameras weighing 1.5 to 2.5 tons.