10 October 2018

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This time, it's all bio: SwissFEL makes protein structures visible

Media Releases Biology Human Health SwissFEL

For the development of new medicinal agents, accurate knowledge of proteins is crucial. In a pilot experiment, researchers have now, for the first time, used the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL of PSI for the examination of protein crystals.

22 August 2018

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A biotechnological revolution

Biology Medical Science Human Health Radiopharmacy

Gebhard Schertler is head of the research division Biology and Chemistry at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and professor for Structural Biology at ETH Zurich. In this interview he talks about biological research at PSI and the future of drug development.

14 June 2018

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Biological light sensor filmed in action

Media Releases Biology SwissFEL

Using X-ray laser technology, a team led by researchers of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI has recorded one of the fastest processes in biology. In doing so, they produced a molecular movie that reveals how the light sensor retinal is activated in a protein molecule. Such reactions occur in numerous organisms. The movie shows for the first time how a protein efficiently controls the reaction of the embedded light sensor.

30 May 2018

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Hollywood in the Würenlingen woods

SwissFEL Biology Large Research Facilities

With the X-ray laser SwissFEL, researchers at PSI want to produce movies of biomolecules in action. This can reveal how our eyes function or how new drugs work.

16 May 2018

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Light for biomolecules and super-fast processes

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light Materials Research Matter and Material Biology Medical Science Human Health SwissFEL Industrial co-operation

The 16th of May is the International Day of Light. The research carried out with light at PSI enables advances in biology and pharmacology and also promotes the development of new materials for data storage and new technologies for personalised medicine.

8 November 2017

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A new bio-robot

Media Releases Biology Human Health Industrial co-operation Radiopharmacy

With a new method for modifying antibodies, Philipp Spycher, winner of a Founder Fellowship at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, wants to develop drugs that are more stable and, thus, have fewer side-effects.

4 October 2017

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Highlighting the significance of structural analysis of biomolecules


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 has been awarded to Jacques Dubochet of Switzerland, U.S.-based German scientist Joachim Frank, and Richard Henderson of the United Kingdom for the development of structural analysis of single biological molecules by means of cryo-electron microscopy. The awarding of the prize underscores the fundamental significance of structural analysis of biomolecules for modern biology – a research area where the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI plays a leading role in Switzerland.

23 February 2017

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In start-up companies, getting it done is a matter of survival

Biology Medical Science Human Health

A pharmaceuticals manager at Roche for a long time, now he is the founder of a biotech firm on the campus of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI: Michael Hennig knows the trends in the medical sector. In this interview he explains why the medicine of the future needs the innovation power of publicly funded research, and why he chose to locate his start-up leadXpro so close to PSI.

31 January 2017

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In cold water

Human Health Medical Science Biology

Martin Ostermaier wanted to break out of the comfort zone of science. Now, instead of pipettes, the biochemist is dealing with investors and patent law.

22 August 2016

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Catching proteins in the act

Media Releases Large Research Facilities SwissFEL Biology Human Health

Proteins are indispensable building blocks of life. They play a vital role in many biological processes. Researchers have now been able to show how the ultrafast processes by which proteins do their work can be studied with free-electron X-ray lasers such as SwissFEL at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI. Free-electron X-ray lasers generate extremely short and intense pulses of X-ray light. Currently there are just two such facilities in operation, worldwide. The results were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

29 June 2016

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To starve a tumour

Human Health Biology

PSI researcher Kurt Ballmer-Hofer is concerned with the question of how tumours could be starved by preventing the development of blood vessels. After 40 years of research that yielded many fundamental insights about the formation of blood vessels, one of the key molecules has been found; further research is expected to enable clinical applications.

6 May 2016

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Experiment in a hovering droplet

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light Biology Human Health

At the PSI, the exact structure of proteins is deciphered in the standard way, with X-rays. Now two PSI researchers have used a clever trick to advance this method further: Instead of pinning down the proteins, they are studying them within a levitating drop of liquid.

3. February 2016

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Probing what sets the heart racing

Media Releases Biology Human Health Medical Science

New insights into the workings of important drug receptors
Many medical drugs operate on specific receptors located in the outer walls of our body’s cells. One of these is called the beta-1 adrenergic receptor. Among other things, it is responsible for palpitation, the racing pulse that we feel with stage fright or infatuation. How it transmits signals to the cellular interior can now be revealed in detail. These findings could help scientists better understand many drugs' mode of action.

19. November 2015

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3D nanostructure of a bone made visible

Media Releases Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light Human Health

Bones are made up of tiny fibres that are roughly a thousand times finer than a human hair. Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have developed a new computer-based algorithm with which they were able to visualize the localised order and alignment of these nanostructures inside an entire piece of bone for the first time.

19. October 2015

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Robust X-ray machine for developing countries

Medical Science Biology Human Health

The Paul Scherrer Institute PSI is involved in a project conducted by several research institutes (spearheaded by EPFL) to devise an X-ray machine especially for developing countries. The device should be able to cope with tropical climes and be easy and cheap to repair. PSI researchers are focusing on producing a cost-effective detector that is necessary for the imaging. The detector registers the X-ray light much like a chip in a digital camera.

10. August 2015

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New details of the transmission of stimuli in living organisms unveiled

Media Releases Biology Human Health Medical Science

Researchers unveil new details of how cells in a living organism process stimuli. So-called G-proteins, which help conduct external stimuli that reach a cell into its interior, play a central role here. For the first time, the study shows which parts of the G-proteins are vital for their function. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, ETH Zurich, the pharmaceutical company Roche and the British MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology report their results in the journals Nature and Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

15. December 2014

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Shortcut to protein portraits

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light Biology

All living organisms, from bacteria to humans, rely on proteins to perform their vital functions. How these proteins accomplish their tasks depends on their structure. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute have now devised a novel method to determine the crystal structure of proteins using X-ray light, which could also hasten the development of new drugs in future. The study will be published in the journal Nature Methods on 15 December.

26. May 2014


New insight into photosynthesis

Media Releases Biology Research Using Neutrons Large Research Facilities

The way that algae and plants respond to light has been reinterpreted based on results from recent experiments. Under particular lighting conditions during photosynthesis, the well-ordered stacking and alignment of light-sensitive membranes in the algae are disrupted. There is no significant movement of the membrane embedded light harvesting proteins, which rather become largely inactive. These new findings challenge widely accepted views of how algae respond to light where the light harvesting proteins were thought to move around the membranes.

25. March 2014


X-rays film inside live flying insects – in 3D

Media Releases Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light User Experiments

Scientists have used a particle accelerator to obtain high-speed 3D X-ray visualizations of the flight muscles of flies. The team from Oxford University, Imperial College, and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) developed a groundbreaking new CT scanning technique at the PSI’s Swiss Light Source to allow them to film inside live flying insects. The movies offer a glimpse into the inner workings of one of nature’s most complex mechanisms, showing that structural deformations are the key to understanding how a fly controls its wingbeat.

3. December 2013


An infection tool with a metallic core

Human Health Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

Thanks to the analysis of protein samples at the PSI, Lausanne researchers have managed to demonstrate which instrument bacteria use to transmit diseases
Researchers from ETH Lausanne EPFL have described how a particular strain of bacteria transmits diseases with unprecedented precision. The team of scientists headed by Petr Leiman, an assistant professor at the EPFL’s Laboratory of Structural Biology and Biophysics, demonstrated that the tip of a bacterial infection tool consists of a PAAR protein, which envelops a metal atom and tapers off to a sharp point. The findings are based on measurements carried out at the Swiss Light Source (SLS), one of the three large research facilities at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI).

17. November 2013


How botox binds to neurons

Media Releases Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light Human Health

Botox is a highly dangerous toxin that causes paralysis. In cosmetic applications it is used to temporarily eliminate wrinkles and in medicine as a treatment for migraine or to correct strabismus. An international research team has now established how the toxin molecule binds to the neuron whose activity is then blocked by the poison. The findings may be useful for the development of improved drugs with a lower risk of overdosage.

16. October 2013


Die Ursprünge der ersten Fische mit „Zähnen“

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light User Experiments Biology

Mit Hilfe von Röntgenlicht aus der Synchrotron Lichtquelle Schweiz des PSI ist es Paläontologen der Universität Bristol gelungen, ein Rätsel um den Ursprung der ersten Wirbeltiere mit harten Körperteilen zu lösen. Sie haben gezeigt, dass die „Zähne“ altertümlicher Fische (der sogenannten Conodonten) unabhängig von den Zähnen und Kiefern heutiger Wirbeltiere entstanden sind. Die Zähne dieser Wirbeltiere haben sich vielmehr aus einem Panzer entwickelt, der dem Schutz vor den Conodonten, den ersten „Raubtieren“, diente.

22. February 2013


Research at SwissFEL: Seeing through the building blocks of life

Large Research Facilities SwissFEL

Experiments at SwissFEL will help us understand important processes in living organisms. They will reveal how vital biomolecules, whose structures cannot be determined using current techniques – are constructed. They will also reveal how the shapes of these molecules change. This knowledge will help us understand disease processes and to develop the drugs needed to treat them.

14. February 2013


A glimpse inside the control centres of cell communication

Media Releases Biology Human Health

Numerous processes taking place within our body, such as sight, smell or taste, are accomplished by an important family of sensors on cell surfaces, which are known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). Researchers have now compared the hitherto known structures of GPCRs and discovered a stabilising framework of fine struts that is characteristic for the architecture of the entire GPCR family. Knowledge about this constructional feature, which has been conserved over the course of evolution, can be of significant assistance in the development of new pharmaceuticals.

3. January 2013


How stabilised cell fibres prevent cancer cell division

Media Releases Human Health Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

Anti-cancer drugs are used under the heading of “Chemotherapeutics” to prevent cells from dividing. Because the cells in a growing tumour divide more frequently than others, tumour cells are damaged more severely. Scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute and the ETH Zurich have now clarified the exact mechanism of action of one class of these drugs. The data acquired is so accurate, that targeted drugs could now be developed that are even better suited to fulfil their task.

17. October 2012


The evolutionary origins of our pretty smile

Media Releases Biology User Experiments Research Using Synchrotron Light

Until recently, it was not obvious whether the earliest vertebrates (animals with a backbone) which had jawbones already possessed teeth or not. Now, an international research team has shown that the jaws of the prehistoric fish Compagopiscis already had teeth. This means that teeth appeared at the same evolutionary time as jaws – or at least shortly afterwards. The leaders of this project were scientists from the University of Bristol, England, who carried out their decisive experiments at the SLS at PSI.

10. October 2012


Nobelpreiswürdig: G-Protein-gekoppelte Rezeptoren

Media Releases Biology

Der Nobelpreis für Chemie geht in diesem Jahr an Robert J. Lefkowitz und Brian K. Kobilka. Sie haben herausgefunden, wie eine Familie von Rezeptoren funktioniert, die man G-Protein-gekoppelte Rezeptoren (GPCR) nennt. Auch am PSI leisten Wissenschaftler Beiträge auf diesem Forschungsgebiet.
This news release is only available in German.

5. June 2012


Alzheimer plaques in 3D

Media Releases Human Health Research Using Synchrotron Light Biology

Researchers have succeeded in generating detailed three-dimensional images of the spatial distribution of amyloid plaques in the brains of mice afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. The new technique used in the investigations provides an extremely precise research tool for a better understanding of the disease. In the future, scientists hope that it will also provide the basis for a new and reliable diagnosis method. The results were achieved within a joint project of two research teams – one from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and ETH Zurich, the other from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

16. February 2012


How the body distinguishes between self and non-self – important structures explained

Media Releases Biology User Experiments Research Using Synchrotron Light

Like a shredder, the immunoproteasome cuts down proteins into peptides that are subsequently presented on the cellular surface. The immune system can distinguish between self and non-self peptides and selectively kills cells that present non-self peptides at their surface. In autoimmune diseases, this mechanism is deregulated. However, inhibition of the immunoproteasome may alleviate disease symptoms and progression. With the help of measurements taken at the Paul Scherer Institute, scientists have now succeeded in determining the first structure of an immunoproteasome.

23. December 2011


Fossile Vorläufer der ersten Tiere

Media Releases Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light User Experiments

Einzellige Organismen, die vor über einer halben Milliarde Jahre gelebt haben und deren Fossilien in China gefunden wurden, sind wohl die unmittelbaren Vorläufer der frühesten Tiere. Die amöbenartigen Einzeller haben sich in einer Weise in zwei, vier, acht usw. Zellen geteilt, wie es heute tierische (und menschliche) Embryonen tun. Die Forscher glauben, dass diese Organismen einem der ersten Schritte vom Einzeller zum Vielzeller in der Entwicklung richtiger Tiere entsprechen.
This news release is only available in German.

21. December 2011


Wenn die Datenleitung in die Zelle versagt

Media Releases Human Health Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

Lebende Zellen empfangen dauernd Informationen von aussen, die über Rezeptoren in das Zellinnere weitergeleitet werden. Genetisch bedingte Fehler in solchen Rezeptoren sind der Grund für zahlreiche Erbkrankheiten darunter verschiedene hormonelle Funktionsstörungen oder Nachtblindheit. Forschern des Paul Scherrer Instituts ist es nun erstmals gelungen, die exakte Struktur eines solchen fehlerhaften Rezeptors aufzuklären.
This news release is only available in German.

11. November 2011


Nanoforscher untersuchen Karies

Media Releases Biology Medical Science Research Using Synchrotron Light User Experiments

Forscher der Universität Basel und des Paul Scherrer Instituts konnten im Nanomassstab zeigen, wie sich Karies auf die menschlichen Zähne auswirkt. Ihre Studie eröffnet neue Perspektiven für die Behandlung von Zahnschäden, bei denen heute nur der Griff zum Bohrer bleibt. Die Forschungsergebnisse wurden in der Fachzeitschrift «Nanomedicine» veröffentlicht.
This news release is only available in German.

15. September 2011


Plants create a water reserve in the soil

Media Releases Research Using Neutrons Biology User Experiments

An international research team has now demonstrated in experiments at the Paul Scherrer Institute that the soil in the vicinity of roots contains more water that that further away. Apparently, plants create a small water reserve that helps to tide them over through short periods of drought. These results were obtained from experiments carried out with the benefit of neutron tomography.

18. August 2011


Getting inside the mind (and up the nose) of our ancient ancestors

Media Releases Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light User Experiments

Reorganisation of the brain and sense organs could be the key to the evolutionary success of vertebrates, one of the great puzzles in evolutionary biology, according to a paper by an international team of researchers, published today in Nature. The study claims to have solved this scientific riddle by studying the brain of a 400 million year old fossilized jawless fish – an evolutionary intermediate between the living jawless and jawed vertebrates.

23. May 2011


X-ray methods help to understand brain disorders better

Media Releases Human Health Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

An international team of researchers has developed a new method for making detailed X-ray images of brain tissue, which has been used to make the myelin sheaths of nerve fibres visible. Damage to these protective sheaths can lead to various disorders, such as multiple sclerosis. The facility for creating these images of the protective sheaths of nerve cells is being operated at the Swiss Light Source (SLS), at the Paul Scherrer Institute.

9. March 2011


The basic structures of sight deciphered

Media Releases Matter and Material Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

At the beginning of the process of sight, light interacts with a protein molecule called Rhodopsin. This molecule contains the actual light sensor that is stimulated by the incoming light and changes its form, in order to trigger the rest of the process. Researchers have now managed to determine the exact structure of the Rhodopsin molecule in its short-lived, excited state. From this, they have obtained a precise picture of the first step of the process of sight.

27. January 2011


Dem Rätsel der Centriolen-Bildung auf der Spur

Media Releases Human Health Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

In menschlichen Zellen finden sich stammesgeschichtlich sehr alte Funktionseinheiten, die als Centriolen bezeichnet werden. Ein Forscherteam vom PSI und der ETH Lausanne hat nun erstmals ein Modell für die Bildung der Centriolen vorgestellt. Das erstaunende Ergebnis ist, dass die Neuner-Symmetrie des Centriols durch die Fähigkeit eines einzelnen Proteins sich selbst zu organisieren zustande kommt.
This news release is only available in French and German.

18. January 2011


Understanding the nanomachines of life

Media Releases Biology User Experiments Research Using Synchrotron Light

Ribosomes are the protein factories of the living cell and themselves very complex biomolecules. Now, a French research group has for the first time determined the structure of the ribosome in a eukaryotic cell – a complex cell containing a cell nucleus. An important part of the experiments was performed with synchrotron light at the Swiss Light Source SLS of the Paul Scherrer Institute.

16. November 2010

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Effizienter Gentransfer nun auch in Säugerzellen möglich

Media Releases Human Health Biology

Wissenschaftler am Paul Scherrer Institut entwickelten ein neues Verfahren, das auch zur Entwicklung von neuen Medikamenten genutzt werden kann.
Die Gentechnik ist aus der modernen Biologie nicht mehr wegzudenken. Sie liefert Werkzeuge, mit denen Forscher Gene aus dem Erbgut von Zellen herausschneiden, verändern und einfügen können. Die stabile Einführung mehrerer Gene in Säugetierzellen gilt zwar als Schlüsseltechnologie, die verfügbaren Methoden waren bislang aber äusserst ineffizient. Wissenschaftler am PSI haben nun eine neuartige Technik entwickelt.
This news release is only available in German.

23. September 2010


Advanced imaging for bone research and materials science

Media Releases Human Health Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

High-resolution method for computed nano-tomography developed
A novel nano-tomography method developed by a team of researchers from the Technische Universität München, the Paul Scherrer Institute and the ETH Zurich opens the door to computed tomography examinations of minute structures at nanometer resolutions. The new method makes possible, for example, three-dimensional internal imaging of fragile bone structures.

22. July 2010

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New X-ray technique distinguishes between that which previously looked the same

Media Releases Human Health Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

Images generated using the phase-contrast technique allow one to distinguish between tissue types such as muscle, cartilage, tendons or soft-tissue tumours that look virtually identical in conventional X-ray images. Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute and the Chinese Academy of Science have further developed the technique to make it easier to use in the future. This could help in the detection of tumours or in the identification of hazardous objects in luggage.

28. June 2010

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Proton pump generates energy from food and oxygen

Media Releases Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light User Experiments

A central feature of any living organism is that food reacts with oxygen and, in the process, energy is released and made available for a variety of reactions within the organism. Using investigations performed at the Swiss Light Source, SLS, researchers have now been able to explain a crucial part of this process at a molecular level.

18. January 2010

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Attacking the lifeline of tumour cells

Media Releases Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light Human Health

Researchers at Biomedicum Helsinki, Finland, and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, Switzerland, have determined the crystal structure of the ligand-binding domain of a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor in complex with one of its ligands (VEGF-C).

1. December 2009

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Studies on protein structures – understanding the basic building blocks of life

Human Health Biology Research Using Synchrotron Light

Proteins are the building blocks of all living organisms. In the living cell these complex molecules perform countless tasks. The precise function a protein performs is directly related to its structure. Researchers at the PSI investigate a wide range of proteins, in order to understand their structures and functions, often to lay the foundations for developing new drugs. In addition, researchers explore new techniques for determining protein structure – in particular with synchrotron light at the Swiss Light Source (SLS).

7. October 2009

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Winner of Nobel Prize in Chemistry is long-term user of Swiss Light Source at the Paul Scherrer Institute

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light User Experiments Biology

The Paul Scherrer Institute congratulates Professor Venkatraman Ramakrishnan on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Ramakrishnan is a long-term user of the Swiss Light Source SLS at the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland. He used this facility for his prize winning studies on the structure of the ribosome.

24. July 2009

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Ticket für die Reise durch die Zelle

Media Releases Biology Human Health Research Using Synchrotron Light

Publikation in Cell. Forscher entdecken Mechanismus für wesentliche Erkennungsvorgänge in lebenden Zellen. Über ihre Ergebnisse berichten die Forscher in der neuesten Ausgabe der Fachzeitschrift Cell.
This news release is only available in German.

4. May 2009

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Komplexe in den Griff bekommen

Media Releases Human Health Biology

Die meisten Vorgänge in lebenden Zellen werden von molekularen Maschinen aus vielen Proteinen ausgeführt. Wissenschaftler von PSI und EMBL haben ein automatisiertes Verfahren zur Herstellung von solchen Multiprotein-Komplexen für die Forschung entwickelt.
This news release is only available in German.

5. September 2008

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Promising targets for drug development

Media Releases Human Health Biology

ETH Researchers determine atomic structure of the mammalian fatty acid factory. Mammalian fatty acid synthase is one of the most complex molecular synthetic machines in human cells. It is a promising target for the development of anti-cancer and anti-obesity drugs and for the treatment of metabolic disorders. Researchers of ETH Zurich have determined the atomic structure of a mammalian fatty acid synthase.

3. June 2008

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Vitamin B12 ist das Trojanische Pferd der Krebsforscher am schweizerischen Zentrum für radiopharmazeutische Wissenschaft

Media Releases Human Health Medical Science Biology

Erste Klinische Studie soll Mitte Juni beginnen.
This news release is only available in German.

20. January 2008

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New technology sharpens X-ray vision

Media Releases Medical Science Biology Human Health

Publication in Nature. Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the EPFL in Switzerland have developed a novel method for producing dark-field X-ray images at wavelengths used in typical medical and industrial imaging equipment. Dark-field images provide more detail than ordinary X-ray radiographs and could be used to diagnose the onset of osteoporosis, breast cancer or Alzheimer's disease, to identify explosives in hand luggage, or to pinpoint hairline cracks or corrosion in functional structures.
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