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Garching Physicist gets a jump start from Brussels - EU endows young professor with strong support fund

02.12.2009 - (idw) Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics (MAP)

The vision for highly resolved and contrasting images of our body convinced the European Union. They gave a Starting Grant of 2 Mio. Euro in total to the young professor who is newly appointed at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). As a member of the Cluster of Excellence "Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics" (MAP) Pfeiffer studies new X-ray technologies for the biomedical imaging. He and his team want to chart out the ground rules for an early and more reliable diagnostics of cancer. The highly sought-after and lucrative EU grants allow Pfeiffer to develop his new imaging technologies and to apply them to biomedical research. These technologies are based on x-rays which are a well-known and reliable method in medicine and biology to take a penetrating look into our body. This works because bones and tissues absorb x-rays in different amounts. As soon as we need to look at soft tissues with low differences in density like in breast or brain, the contrast of the images is too low and, therefore, the method works poorly. For a long time physicists have known how to get pin-sharp images by looking at the phase shift of the x-rays. However, for this they need the special x-rays, called brilliant synchrotron x-rays, with their unique nature which are only available in some few places in the world.
With even less brilliant x-rays of a conventional and affordable x-ray tube with some tricky improvements, Pfeiffer can still get similarly sharp images.

With the EU-money he will construct the prototype of a new x-ray CT-scanner during the next five years. Moreover, he will do the first preclinical experiments together with doctors of the clinics of both Munich universities. He also wants to explore future clinical applications and to intensify the cooperation with prominent medical equipment manufacturer.

"If we are successful in transferring our new technology to clinical practices", Pfeiffer argues, "the new contrast technology will revolutionize the biomedical imaging with x-rays - more than 100 years after their discovery." Michael Molls, director of the TUM Department of Radiation Oncology contributes: "Our big hope with this technology is the possibility to diagnose tumors in a very early stage, which is very important for a successful therapy. That would mean an efficient improvement for cancer therapy in clinics."

Pfeiffer was one of more than 2500 applicants from 33 European countries for the so-called ERC Starting Grant. The European Research Council reserves this money especially for young researchers who are on the way to build up their own groups and do interdisciplinary projects. All research projects are admitted, but most of the proposals derive from physics, life and engineering sciences. All in all, the EU allocates 7.5 Billion Euro for five years. Only six German scientists could gain such a special EU grant and Pfeiffer is the only one from the southern part of Germany.
Weitere Informationen: http://www.munich-photonics.de - Homepage of the Cluster of Excellence http://www.physik.tu-muenchen.de/personen/professoren/pfeiffer/info.htm - Prof. Pfeiffer's homepage
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