I Am Joe's Lung Live On Video

So far in this century, medical science has produced X-rays, CT scans, and magnetic-resonance imaging--all of which let doctors peer inside the body to gauge the effects of illness and injury. But these systems also expose the body to potentially harmful radiation. That's why there's plenty of interest in a new technology: the Adaptive Current Tomograph (ACT).

Developed at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., the ACT passes a low-frequency electrical current through the body. Depending on their condition, organs show varying degrees of resistance to the current, and a computer uses the data to generate a video image of the organ in question. A normal air-filled lung, for instance, resists electricity and will appear as a bright image. A sick, fluid-filled lung is less resistant and appears dark on the screen. Because the image is live, hospitals can easily monitor patients around the clock. ACT's capability for such monitoring and its relatively low cost--about $50,000, vs. $1 million for a CT scan--could make it a welcome addition to imaging technology. The RPI team hopes to begin clinical trials by year's end.