Tag Archives: Australian Synchrotron

ANSTO breast cancer detection breakthrough on the horizon

Image: Synchrotron radiation is emitted by a synchrotron, an extremely powerful particle accelerator.

A new and innovative application of an advanced medical imaging technique is being prepared for clinical application by Australian researchers at ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron to improve breast cancer detection and diagnosis.

The research, made possible by the Coalition Government’s $520 million investment in the facility in 2016 as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, will provide better patient outcomes.

The research is being conducted by a group of imaging scientists led by Professor Patrick Brennan of the University of Sydney and Dr Tim Gureyev of the University of Melbourne and uses the Imaging and Medical Beamline at the Australian Synchrotron with the support of Instrument scientist Dr Daniel Häusermann.

The technique, called in-line phase-contrast computed tomography (PCT), is due to be used on the first patients by 2020 and is being developed because of the high error rate that still exists with current medical imaging screening techniques.

The method, which used convention X-rays, was pioneered by Melbourne researchers in the late 1990s, including Professor Keith Nugent the late Dr Stephen Wilkins.

Approximately 30 per cent of cancers are still missed by radiologists and for patients with high breast density the missed cancer rate is over 50 per cent. This can lead to late detection of the cancer, and regrettably, often fatal outcomes from metastasis.

Speaking at ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron campus to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, said the research was vitally important for women throughout Australia.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women. There are currently over 800,000 mammograms performed in Australia each year,” Minister Andrews said.

 “As many women will know, the experience of getting a mammogram can be uncomfortable and in too many cases the existing technology means cancers are missed.

 “This research will mean better image quality, a more accurate diagnosis, and a smaller radiation dose. Importantly, there will be no discomfort for patients as the breast compression process will no longer be necessary.”

The work is being supported by ANSTO and an NHMRC grant of $687,000 over three years, to ready the technique for use with the first patients by 2020.

“This investment highlights the Federal Government’s commitment to supporting world-leading research, which has real world benefits for the community.”

Professor Andrew Peele, Director of the Australian Synchrotron, ANSTO said, “This vitally important research, enabled by lead researchers using ANSTO’s world-class Synchrotron and our scientists, highlights the very real benefits that science and technology can deliver to the community,” Professor Peele said.

“This is the first application of the technique using synchrotron radiation in human patients, so there is a great deal of preparation and many things that have to take place before its use. Nonetheless we are greatly encouraged by findings so far.”

A 3D animation of the medical imaging screening process can be found here.

 This article was originally published on ANSTO.gov.au. ANSTO is the home of Australia’s most significant landmark and national infrastructure for research. Thousands of scientists from industry and academia benefit from gaining access to state-of-the-art instruments every year.

Degas masterpiece uncovered

Featured image above: (left) False colour reconstruction of Degas’ hidden portrait, created from the X-ray fluorescence microscopy elemental maps produced at the Australian Synchrotron (right) Portrait of a Woman by Edgar Degas (c). 1876–80 . Credit: Australian Synchrotron/National Gallery of Victoria.

An alliance of Australian scientists and conservators have made a quantum leap forward in the analysis of priceless artworks, revealing an earlier painting of a different woman beneath a French Impressionist masterpiece in unprecedented detail, using a technology combination unavailable anywhere else in the world.

Shedding light on a decades-old riddle through a unique technology pipeline, researchers from Australian SynchrotronNational Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and CSIRO published stunning images of what lies beneath Edgar Degas’ Portrait of a Woman (c. 1876-1880) in the journal Scientific Reports overnight, midway through the artwork’s display at NGV International as part of Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition, Degas: A new vision.

Dr Daryl Howard, scientist on the X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy (XFM) beamline at the Australian Synchrotron – the newest addition to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)’s world-class line-up of landmark research infrastructure – says the re-creation of the underpainting was achieved by first producing complex metal maps to highlight minerals in the many paint types.

“‘Paint from Degas’ period was primarily composed of ground-up rocks and early synthetic pigments  – with copper creating green and mercury creating red, for example – and he swirled and mixed different paints from different tubes on his palette at different times, as did the restorers who touched up this painting into the early twentieth century.

“Placing the artwork in the path of the Australian Synchrotron beam, which is a million times brighter than the sun, we measured the exact location of different pigment mixtures in every one millimetre square pixel, and fed the vast volumes of data into a computer to reconstruct both the surface and underlying layers.”

Howard says the technique is an ‘order of magnitude’ improvement for non-intrusive art analysis, crucial when handling priceless artworks.

“Eight years ago, a low resolution three-element image, which revealed a face beneath Vincent Van Gogh’s Patch of Grass 1887, inspired us to refine and advance non-destructive imaging using some of the world’s most advanced scientific technology.

“This analysis takes this “hands-off” approach to the next level, producing enormous 31.6 megapixel images – beyond the resolution of most of today’s best digital cameras – while subjecting each part of the artwork to radiation for only a fraction of a second to ensure it is not damaged.”

CSIRO engineer Robin Kirkham says the powerful light of the Australian Synchrotron combined with a highly sensitive detector devised at CSIRO are behind the revolutionary new technique.

“Developed by CSIRO with US project partner Brookhaven National Laboratory over the past few years, the Maia detector can complete complex elemental imaging a hundred times faster than conventional systems.”

“Coupled with the brilliant synchrotron beam, in 33 hours the detector produced images with around 250 times more pixel definition than the far smaller 2008 Van Gogh images that took about two days to produce.”

It’s not the first time the NGV, Australian Synchrotron and CSIRO have joined forces to solve an art mystery. In 2010 similar techniques were used to find a hidden Arthur Streeton self-portrait buried under layers of lead paint and, in 2015, a major project helped uncover hidden secrets in Frederick McCubbin’s The North wind.

Degas: a new vision is exhibiting at NGV until Sunday 18 September.

This article was first published by Australian Synchrotron on 4 August 2016. Read the original article here.

Research infrastructure makes industry impact

The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) was conceived in 2004 by the Australian Government in response to the increasing costs and complexity of research facilities. Guided by the 2006 NCRIS Strategic Roadmap, the original investments began 10 years ago, strategically funding Australian research infrastructure across a wide range of fields including health, biosecurity, physics and the  environment.

Since then, the Australian Government has provided $2.8 billion to the program, alongside $1 billion co-investment from state and territory governments, universities and industry. The investment is now recognised as a key driver of Australia’s research innovation in recent years.

“NCRIS has helped Australian researchers collaborate with colleagues in over 30 countries. It has paved the way to our involvement in other great projects, like the Square Kilometre Array. And it has brought remarkable people who I am proud to know into the circle of Australian science,” says Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO in support of NCRIS earlier this year.

The 27 current NCRIS projects include 222 institutions employing over 1700 technical experts, researchers and facility managers. More than 35,000 researchers, both in Australia and abroad, use these world-class facilities.

Many NCRIS-funded projects are household names in the scientific community, such as the high profile particle accelerator, the Australian Synchrotron, and the Atlas of Living Australia, which inventories the natural history of our unique flora and fauna.

research infrastructure
The Atlas of Living Australia, a project funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy

There’s the Australian National Fabrication Facility where materials such as metals, ceramics or polymers can be manipulated, and many more state-of-the art facilities.

NCRIS recognises the need for data-intensive research in order to take on major challenges. The initiative funds a wide range of data-intensive facilities, as well as the specialist data services required to support them (including ANDS).

Australia now has two high-performance supercomputing centres funded by NCRIS, which includes the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth and the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at the Australian National University.

Sophisticated data storage and access facilities are also supported by NCRIS. The Research Data Storage Infrastructure (RSDI) project (succeeded by Research Data Services, or RDS), has produced cost-effective, scaled up, shared storage services in order to improve research collaboration.

The National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (Nectar) provides an online infrastructure that supports researchers to connect and collaborate with colleagues in Australia and around the world using virtual research laboratories and a national research server.

Data gathering infrastructure also plays a vital role in Australia’s research community by collating data to make it more coherent.

The Australian Data Archive and the Population Health Research Network are two such organisations funded by NCRIS.

International recognition

The projects and collaborations supported by NCRIS are gaining Australia international recognition when it comes to data management and new discovery.

“Overall, Australia plays a disproportionately large and useful role in global data sharing, and much, probably most, of that work is supported through NCRIS,” explains Mark Parsons, Secretary General for the Research Data Alliance.

Australian researchers “have made huge contributions to global data infrastructure,” he says.

An expert working group of eminent Australians led by Dr Finkel is currently working on the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap to support future investment decisions and “position the
nation to respond to the world’s big research challenges.”

The industry impact of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy

A snapshot by Dr Tim Rawling, CEO of AuScope

Earth and geospatial scientists are heavy users of data products. When industry geologists access spatial data from the field and the exploration office they require data products that are discoverable, searchable, interoperable and attributed with robust metadata.

research infrastructure
Dr Tim Rawling. Credit: AuScope

Over the last decade AuScope has utilised NCRIS funding to provide a variety of data products including geophysical data (reflection and passive seismic, magnetotellurics and gravity), GIS layers from state and national geological survey organisations, hyperspectral core logging (National Virtual Core Library) and time-series geospatial data from GNSS and VLBI instruments – all delivered using AuScope GRID technologies based on the Spatial Information Services Stack (SiSS).

Perhaps one of the best examples of collaboration to deliver data products to industry users is the national Mineral Library. Working with researchers at Curtin University’s John de Laeter Centre and ANDS, AuScope has also supported the development of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The project has produced an entirely new workflow, based around a TESCAN TIMA field emission scanning electron microscope, that allows metadata to be collected and recorded from the sample collection and preparation right through to data delivery and publication.

This process has facilitated the scanning of a large stockpile of mineral samples from across Western Australia that will produce a state-wide Mineral Library, allowing mineral explorers to better understand the composition of critical rock outcrop samples from all over the state.

This new NCRIS supported initiative provides a dataset that underpins both academic and applied research programs and is important for the economic future of Australia. Mining companies do a lot of heavy mineral analysis in research and development but, because there isn’t a baseline for mineralogy across each state, it is difficult to have full confidence in the heavy mineral data. This creates an issue for pinpointing where the next major mineral deposits are.

Having solid baseline data will help improve targeting, which in turn reduces the costs associated with exploration and supports new discovery.

This article was first shared by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) in August 2016 . Read the original article and find out more about NCRIS here.

Safety of chromium questioned

Featured image by The University of Sydney: The synchrotron’s high energy x-ray beam allowed scientists to identify chromium spots throughout the cell. By using a second high energy beam focused at these spots, the scientists were able to tell that the cell had converted into the carcinogenic form of chromium. The spots are identified by the arrows in this image.

An Australian research team found chromium is partially converted into a carcinogenic form when it enters cells.

Chromium is a trace mineral found primarily in two forms. Trivalent chromium(III) picolinate and a range of other chromium(III) forms are sold as a nutritional supplements, while hexavalent chromium(VI) is its ‘carcinogenic cousin’. The latter gained notoriety from the book and 2000 movie, Erin Brockovich, which linked an elevated cluster of illnesses, including cancer, to hexavalent chromium in the drinking water of the Californian town of Hinkley.

The University of Sydney and UNSW researchers’ concerns are based on a study published in the prestigious chemistry journal, Angewandte Chemie.

Controversy remains over whether the dietary form of chromium is essential for humans, with an increasing body of evidence indicating it is not safe for humans.

Supplements containing chromium are consumed for the purported treatment of metabolic disorders, such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, but chromium’s mechanism of action in the body is not well understood.

Supplements containing chromium are also commonly used for weight loss and body building with some containing up to 500 micrograms per tablet.

The US National Academy of Sciences has estimated up to 200 micrograms of chromium is a safe and adequate daily dietary intake for adults. Australia’s current National Health and Medical Research Council Nutrient Reference Values, which are currently under review, recommend 25–35 micrograms of chromium daily as an ‘adequate intake’ for adults.

In the latest study, the Australian research team treated animal fat cells with chromium(III) in the laboratory. It then created a map of every chemical element contained within the cell using an intense X-ray beam at a facility known as a synchrotron.

The team, led by Professor Peter Lay from the University of Sydney’s School of Chemistry and Dr Lindsay Wu, now with UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences, travelled near to Chicago to Argonne National Laboratory to perform the experiments in collaboration with colleagues at Argonne’s, the Advanced Photon Source, a US Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that generates ultra-bright, high-energy X-rays.

“The high energy X-ray beam from the synchrotron acted as a fluorescent microscope, which allowed us to not only see the chromium spots throughout the cell but also to determine whether the spots were chromium(III) or a combination of chromium(III) chromium(V) and chromium(VI),” says Wu, who conducted the study while based at the University of Sydney.

“The health hazards associated with exposure to chromium are dependent on its oxidation state. We were able to show that oxidation of chromium inside the cell does occur, meaning it loses electrons and transforms into a carcinogenic form.”

Additional experiments have since been conducted at Australia’s National Beamline Facility and the Photon Factory in Tsukuba Japan, (operated by the Australian Synchrotron) that has helped clarify the carcinogenic nature of chromium(V) and chromium(VI) formed in cells.

Lay says with the latency period for chromium(VI)-related cancers often greater than 20 years, the finding raised concerns about the possible cancer-causing qualities of chromium compounds and the risks of taking chromium nutritional supplements long term or in high doses.

“With questionable evidence over the effectiveness of chromium as a dietary supplement, these findings should make people think twice about taking supplements containing large doses of chromium,” Lay says.

“However additional research is needed to ascertain whether chromium supplements significantly alter cancer risk.”

The researchers said the findings are very unlikely to apply to trace amounts of chromium(III) found in food.

The research was supported by the Australian Research Council, the Australian Synchrotron Research Program and the Australian Synchrotron.

This article was first published by The University of Sydney on 11 January 2016. Read the original article here.