Medical Biophysics Graduate Student Association

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A Layman’s Primer to Understanding Medical Biophysics

(by Kathy Wilson) It’s not something you think you would know or understand when you look at or hear the name alone, but the simple fact is that we have all come across applications of medical biophysics at some point or the other in our lives. Almost every machine that helps doctors perform diagnostic procedures through invasive or non-invasive techniques is an example of what the medical biophysics field has achieved. To put it in simple terms, medical biophysics applies the principles of physics to biological processes to facilitate applications in the medical field. The most common medical biophysics application would probably be your X-ray machine.

Besides being used for medical imaging for diagnostic purposes, medical biophysics is also applied in the field of oncology for both the diagnosis and the treatment of cancer through techniques like radiolabelling and molecular imaging. It also finds importance in the research of vasculature and the function of the circulatory system.

In recent years, medical biophysics has proven invaluable in the treatment of cancer, a disease whose diagnosis is almost always equivalent to pronouncing a death sentence. However, medical researchers are working long and hard to find ways to cure cancer and allow patients to lead a healthy life without suffering a relapse. Dr. Curtis B. Caldwell of the University of Toronto has applied digital image analysis in conjunction with artificial intelligence to see if tumors can be accurately located and targeted during radiation therapy. As of now, CT scan images are used by oncologists and doctors to manually define tumor contours and determine its general area.

Dr. Caldwell and his team are conducting research to see if functional information from PET scans will allow improvement in the way tumor volumes are defined. Using texture information from both CT and PET images, he is attempting to automatically define the tumor target so that radiation therapy can be planned in such a way that curative radiation doses can be delivered without high amounts being targeted at areas close to normal tissue. This, if achieved, will eliminate one of the most debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy – the fact that healthy cells are also destroyed along with the cancerous cells.

So even though you may think the term medical biophysics is intimidating and complicated, you would have come across its various applications at some point in your life, whether it is for your medical health or that of your loved ones. And because of its immense potential for development in the world of curative medicine, this field, which is growing by leaps and bounds by the day, is a smart career choice.

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This guest post is contributed by Kathy Wilson, who writes on the topic of x-ray technician schools . She welcomes your comments at her email id: kathywilson1983@gmail.com

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