A Winning Combination

Two Americans working in the Alps come up with a plan to merge two widely used scanning devices--the PET and the CT--into one

The idea came out of left field. Electrical engineer Ronald Nutt and physicist David Townsend, working at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, had just taken the cover off their newly developed metabolic-imaging machine and were admiring its innards when an oncology surgeon happened by. "You have a lot of space between those detectors," he offered. "You ought to try to put something in there that would be useful."

At the time, eight years ago, PET (positron emission tomography) machines, which can reveal subtle metabolic processes such as tumor growth, and CT (computerized tomography) scanners, which show precise anatomical details, were...

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