How is the human body built and how does it function? What are the causes of disease, and where is disease located? Throughout the history of mankind these questions were answered by the use of invasive methods that included the “opening” of the human body, mainly cadavers. Thanks to these invasive techniques the first precise and complete anatomy works started to appear in the 16th century. The most influential works were published by Leonardo da Vinci and the anatomist and physician Andreas Vesalius. The discovery of X-rays in 1895, and their use for medical applications, introduced a new era, in which non-invasive imaging of the functioning human body became feasible. Nowadays, medical imaging includes many different imaging modalities, such as X-ray, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound (US), nuclear and optical imaging, and has become an indispensable diagnostic tool for a wide range of applications. Initially, the application of medical imaging focused on the visualization of anatomy and on the detection and localization of disease. However, with the development of different modalities it has evolved into a much more versatile tool providing important information on e.g. physiology and organ function, biochemistry and metabolism using nuclear imaging (mainly positron emission tomography (PET) imaging), molecular and processes on the molecular and cellular level using molecular imaging techniques.

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W.J. Niessen (Wiro)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

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