Hierarchical Phase-Contrast Tomography (HiP-CT) is a new x-ray tomography technique that spans a previously poorly explored scale in our understanding of human anatomy, the micron to whole intact organ scale. HiP-CT is a propagation-based phase-contrast x-ray imaging technique utilises the higher energies, higher beam coherence and small source size enabled by the Extremely Brilliant Source upgrade of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF-EBS). Using HiP-CT we are developing a ‘Human Organ Atlas’ that bridges the traditional imaging scales of histology (using optical and electron microscopy images cells and other structures with sub-micron accuracy but only on small biopsies of tissue from an organ) to clinical CT and MRI scans (which can image whole organs, but with a resolution only down to just below a millimetre). HiP-CT bridges these scales in 3D, imaging intact organs with ca. 20 micron voxels, and locally down to the micron scale. We hope this open access Atlas, enabled by the ESRF-EBS, will act as a reference to provide new insights into our biological makeup in health and disease. See mecheng.ucl.ac.uk/hip-ct for more details, a list of our publications (e.g. bit.ly/HiP-CT-paper ) and videos seeing inside our organs with near micron resolution (bit.ly/HiP-CT-videos).
The HiP-CT technique was developed to image complete human organs, including those damaged by SARS-CoV-2 infection, through an international collaboration of imaging scientists at University College London and ESRF, working with Clinical scientists treating COVID-19 patients in Hannover, Mainz, Heidelberg and Grenoble, to help understand the disease.