Combining several medical imaging technologies.


Physics and engineering for medicine

Creating synergies among medical imaging techniques

Much progress in medicine has come from research in physics. This is especially the case with medical imaging. In the same way, physics is greatly enriched by the contact with medicine. The Physics and Engineering for Medicine project is definitely broader than the sole combination of imaging technologies, the MRI and the PET.

A first phase aims at facilitating the emergence of other physics and engineering projects for medicine, and creating a community and the conditions of cooperation among the subject areas. An institute of physics and engineering for biomedical applications will, over the medium term, include chemistry laboratories (for the development of contrast agents), medical instruments, innovative therapies and interactive visualisation.

Towards personalised medicine

The technologies of medical imaging each have specific advantages. Thus, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides data on the physiology and vascularisation of tumours, with a resolution along the order of a millimetre. It also offers unique information on the function of the body.

Positron emission tomography (PET) measures with unequalled precision the concentrations of radioactive molecules, which are used to visualise the biological properties of the cells, for example, lack of oxygen, cell proliferation or cell death. The combination of these two technologies opens up new prospects for better understanding the molecular processes underlying pathologies, and thus advance along the way of personalised medicine.

In order to better use this dual imaging, it is not enough to combine the methodologies proper to each of them. New testing methods, as well as new protocols, must be improved so that the ensuing technology is much more efficient than the mere superimposition of MRI and PET. The main clinical applications of this new imaging must also be identified.

These applications especially concern cancer and neurological conditions, such as epilepsy in children, or radiation therapy that depends on the response of the tumour.

The PIM advantages

The Université Paris-Saclay has several top-notch laboratories in physics and engineering for biomedical applications. They gather together physics experts on MRI and PET, as well as radiologists, nuclear medicine doctors and radiation therapy specialists.

It is the ideal place to create an environment favourable to medical innovation on the border of several disciplines. Fourteen research teams within nine laboratories (physics, dosimetry, medical imaging, medical data processing, hospital institutes and hospital research groups) will participate in the project, coming from laboratories of the CEA (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives – French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission), Gustave Roussy Institute, Inserm, Curie Institute, Mines-Télécom Institute, CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique – National Scientific Research Centre) and Université Paris-Sud.



Since the beginning of the 20th century, medical imaging has revolutionised medicine. Marie Curie, a pioneer in this field, designed eighteen vehicles equipped with X-ray radiology devices, nicknamed “little Curies”, for X-raying the wounded to find bullets and shrapnel and make the surgeons’ work easier. She herself went across the battle field at the wheel of one of them with her daughter Irene. Later on came the methods using ultrasound (echography), those analysing the electrical activity of certain organs (for example, the electrocardiogram), then magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear medicine methods based on particle emission, such as the positron emission tomography (PET).