University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
X-ray scattering and diffraction enhanced imaging studies of in vitro breast tissues
Manuel Fernández Martínez
Doctoral dissertation, June 2006.
This thesis is a study of the x-ray scattering properties of tissues and tumours of the breast. Clinical radiography is based on the absorption of the x-rays when passing right through the human body and gives information about the densities of the tissues. Besides being absorbed, x-rays may change their direction within the tissues due to elastic scattering or even to refraction. The phenomenon of scattering is a nuisance to radiography in general, and to mammography in particular, because it reduces the quality of the images. However, scattered x-rays bear very useful information about the structure of the tissues at the supra-molecular level. Some pathologies, like breast cancer, produce alterations to the structures of the tissues, being especially evident in collagen-rich tissues.
On the other hand, the change of direction due to refraction of the x-rays on the tissue boundaries can be mapped. The diffraction enhanced imaging (DEI) technique uses a perfect crystal to convert the angular deviations of the x-rays into intensity variations, which can be recorded as images. This technique is of especial interest in the cases were the densities of the tissues are very similar (like in mammography) and the absorption images do not offer enough contrast. This thesis explores the structural differences existing in healthy and pathological collagen in breast tissue samples by the small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) technique and compares these differences with the morphological information found in the DEI images and the histo-pathology of the same samples.
Several breast tissue samples were studied by SAXS technique in the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France. Scattering patterns of the different tissues of the breast were acquired and compared with the histology of the samples. The scattering signals from adipose tissue (fat), connective tissue (collagen) and necrotic tissue were identified. Moreover, a clear distinction could be done between the scattering signals from healthy collagen and from collagen from an invasive tumour. Scattering from collagen is very characteristic. It includes several scattering peaks and scattering features that carry information about the size and the spacing of the collagen fibrils in the tissues. It was found that the collagen fibrils in invaded tumours were thinner and had a d-spacing length 0,7% longer that fibrils from healthy tumours. The scattering signals from the breast tissues were compared with the histology by building colour-coded maps across the samples. They were also imaged with the DEI technique. There was a total agreement between the scattering maps, the morphological features seen in the images and the information of the histo- pathological examination.
The thesis demonstrates that the x-ray scattering signal can be used to characterize tissues and that it carries important information about the pathological state of the breast tissues, thus showing the potential of the SAXS technique as a possible diagnostic tool for breast cancer.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 18.05.2006