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  1. Magnetic particle imaging (MPI) is a novel biomedical imaging modality that allows non-invasive, tomographic, and quantitative tracking of the distribution of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticle (SPION) tracers. While MPI possesses high sensitivity, detecting nanograms of iron, it does not provide anatomical information. Computed tomography (CT) is a widely used biomedical imaging modality that yields anatomical information at high resolution. A multimodal imaging agent combining the benefits of MPI and CT imaging would be of interest. Here we combine MPI-tailored SPIONs with CT-contrast hafnium oxide (hafnia) nanoparticles using flash nanoprecipitation to obtain dual-imaging MPI/CT agents. Co-encapsulation of iron oxide and hafnia in the composite nanoparticles was confirmed via transmission electron microscopy and elemental mapping. Equilibrium and dynamic magnetic characterization show a reduction in effective magnetic diameter and changes in dynamic magnetic susceptibility spectra at high oscillating field frequencies, suggesting magnetic interactions within the composite dual imaging tracers. The MPI performance of the dual imaging agent was evaluated and compared to the commercial tracer ferucarbotran. The dual-imaging agent has MPI sensitivity that is ∼3× better than this commercial tracer. However, worsening of MPI resolution was observed in the composite tracer when compared to individually coated SPIONs. This worsening resolution could result from magnetic dipolar interactions within the composite dual imaging tracer. The CT performance of the dual imaging agent was evaluated in a pre-clinical animal scanner and a clinical scanner, revealing better contrast compared to a commercial iodine-based contrast agent. We demonstrate that the dual imaging agent can be differentiated from the commercial iodine contrast agent using dual energy CT (DECT) imaging. Furthermore, the dual imaging agent displayed energy-dependent CT contrast arising from the combination of SPION and hafnia, making it potentially suitable for virtual monochromatic imaging of the contrast agent distribution using DECT. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 30, 2024
  2. A body of studies has proposed to obtain high-quality images from low-dose and noisy Computed Tomography (CT) scans for radiation reduction. However, these studies are designed for population-level data without considering the variation in CT devices and individuals, limiting the current approaches' performance, especially for ultra-low-dose CT imaging. Here, we proposed PIMA-CT, a physical anthropomorphic phantom model integrating an unsupervised learning framework, using a novel deep learning technique called Cyclic Simulation and Denoising (CSD), to address these limitations. We first acquired paired low-dose and standard-dose CT scans of the phantom and then developed two generative neural networks: noise simulator and denoiser. The simulator extracts real low-dose noise and tissue features from two separate image spaces (e.g., low-dose phantom model scans and standard-dose patient scans) into a unified feature space. Meanwhile, the denoiser provides feedback to the simulator on the quality of the generated noise. In this way, the simulator and denoiser cyclically interact to optimize network learning and ease the denoiser to simultaneously remove noise and restore tissue features. We thoroughly evaluate our method for removing both real low-dose noise and Gaussian simulated low-dose noise. The results show that CSD outperforms one of the state-of-the-art denoising algorithms without using any labeled data (actual patients' low-dose CT scans) nor simulated low-dose CT scans. This study may shed light on incorporating physical models in medical imaging, especially for ultra-low level dose CT scans restoration. 
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  3. Introduction Multi-series CT (MSCT) scans, including non-contrast CT (NCCT), CT Perfusion (CTP), and CT Angiography (CTA), are widely used in acute stroke imaging. While each scan has its advantage in disease diagnosis, the varying image resolution of different series hinders the ability of the radiologist to discern subtle suspicious findings. Besides, higher image quality requires high radiation doses, leading to increases in health risks such as cataract formation and cancer induction. Thus, it is highly crucial to develop an approach to improve MSCT resolution and to lower radiation exposure. Hypothesis MSCT imaging of the same patient is highly correlated in structural features, the transferring and integration of the shared and complementary information from different series are beneficial for achieving high image quality. Methods We propose TL-GAN, a learning-based method by using Transfer Learning (TL) and Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) to reconstruct high-quality diagnostic images. Our TL-GAN method is evaluated on 4,382 images collected from nine patients’ MSCT scans, including 415 NCCT slices, 3,696 CTP slices, and 271 CTA slices. We randomly split the nine patients into a training set (4 patients), a validation set (2 patients), and a testing set (3 patients). In preprocessing, we remove the background and skull and visualize in brain window. The low-resolution images (1/4 of the original spatial size) are simulated by bicubic down-sampling. For training without TL, we train different series individually, and for with TL, we follow the scanning sequence (NCCT, CTP, and CTA) by finetuning. Results The performance of TL-GAN is evaluated by the peak-signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) and structural similarity (SSIM) index on 184 NCCT, 882 CTP, and 107 CTA test images. Figure 1 provides both visual (a-c) and quantity (d-f) comparisons. Through TL-GAN, there is a significant improvement with TL than without TL (training from scratch) for NCCT, CTP, and CTA images, respectively. These significances of performance improvement are evaluated by one-tailed paired t-tests (p < 0.05). We enlarge the regions of interest for detail visual comparisons. Further, we evaluate the CTP performance by calculating the perfusion maps, including cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral blood volume (CBV). The visual comparison of the perfusion maps in Figure 2 demonstrate that TL-GAN is beneficial for achieving high diagnostic image quality, which are comparable to the ground truth images for both CBF and CBV maps. Conclusion Utilizing TL-GAN can effectively improve the image resolution for MSCT, provides radiologists more image details for suspicious findings, which is a practical solution for MSCT image quality enhancement. 
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