The EXPLORER consortium is a multi-institutional group that has developed the world’s first total body medical imaging system that can capture 3D models of the entire human body simultaneously.

The scanner, called EXPLORER, produces images 40-fold higher resolution than current commercial scanners and is expected to open up entirely new ways in which PET/CT can be used in biomedical research and clinical practice.

The University of California, Davis researchers Simon Cherry and Ramsey Badawi are the brainchildren behind this revolutionary scanner.

EXPLORER produces a whole-body diagnostic scan in as little as 20 seconds. It can also generate 3D movies that track radiotracers in drugs as they circulate the body. The machine can scan up to 40 times faster, or use up to 40 times less radiation dose, than traditional scanners, making it better for cancer detection; studies of trafficking patterns in cell-based therapies; toxicological research; studies of metabolic disorders; autoimmune disease and other chronic conditions; and research in overall systems medicine.

“The trade-off between image quality, acquisition time and injected radiation dose will vary for different applications, but in all cases, we can scan better, faster or with less radiation dose, or some combination of these,” Cherry explained.

The first human images were developed in collaboration with Shanghai-based United Imaging Healthcare, which built the prototype system and will be the manufacture for series production. 

“While I had imagined what the images would look like for years, nothing prepared me for the incredible detail we could see on that first scan,” said Cherry. “While there is still a lot of careful analysis to do, I think we already know that EXPLORER is delivering roughly what we had promised.”

In the first video, the researchers used the scanner to surveil the delivery and distribution of glucose in real time. 

“The level of detail was astonishing, especially once we got the reconstruction method a bit more optimized,” said Badawi. “We could see features that you just don’t see on regular PET scans. And the dynamic sequence showing the radiotracer moving around the body in three dimensions over time was, frankly, mind-blowing. There is no other device that can obtain data like this in humans, so this is truly novel.”

“I don’t think it will be long before we see a number of EXPLORER systems around the world,” said Cherry. “But that depends on demonstrating the benefits of the system, both clinically and for research. Now, our focus turns to planning the studies that will demonstrate how EXPLORER will benefit our patients and contribute to our knowledge of the whole human body in health and disease.”

A second video shows in less than 30 seconds, EXPLORER can develop a 3D model of a human body. 

The first Explorer scanner will be installed in Sacramento, California, for use in research projects in 2019.

It would not be surprising at all if the federal government took interest in the scanner for the use in airports.