Lungs damaged by coronavirus photographed at the synchrotron – Sciences et Avenir

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, doctors were trying to better understand and define the nature of injuries caused by SARS-CoV-2 in the body and more particularly in the lungs, preferably directed by the virus. “It was at this time, during the first confinement in France, that my colleagues at the University College of London (UCL) contacted me to find out if some of the techniques I had developed to study fossils could be used to look at whole organs. lungs, therefore, patients, which was not possible in other places “, explains to Sciences et Avenir Paul Tafforeau, p.Randomontologist working at the ESRF, the European synchrotron radiation facility located in Grenoble.

Thus, he adapted, supported by an international team, an imaging technique called HiP-CT (Hierarchical Phase Contrast Tomography) to be able to scan entire organs and then zoom at the cellular level, at resolutions never before achieved.

100 billion times brighter than an X-ray

To achieve such a result, it was necessary to benefit from the very bright X-ray source produced by the new equipment installed in the capital of Dauphiné, the fourth-generation synchrotron, the ESRF-EBS (for Extremely Brilliant Source). A huge 900 meter circumference cylinder within which electrons circulate at almost the speed of light to generate X-ray beams one hundred times more coherent than existing synchrotrons and 100 billion times brighter than a medical X-ray!

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