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Forensic anthropology acquires cutting-edge tomography system

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
May 8, 2014

Daniel Wescott and micro-CT system

Daniel Wescott operates the new X5000 Computed Tomography System at the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State.

The Forensic Anthropology Center (FACTS) at Texas State University has acquired an X5000 Computed Tomography System through a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrument Grant.

The National Science Foundation grant covered 70 percent of the micro-CT system's $1 million cost, with Texas State contributing the remainder. The grant is also funding a full-time micro-CT operator and two graduate research assistant positions.

"FACTS is the only center that I know of that has micro-CT capabilities in the same laboratory with a large, well-documented human skeletal collection," said Daniel Wescott, director of FACTS. "The combination of a micro-CT system at the same location as our skeletal, archaeological and paleontological collections will act as a magnet for attracting outside researchers and high quality students and faculty. Students trained to use the micro-CT system will gain unique skills and be afforded research opportunities that will significantly affect their career options."

Micro-computed tomography is state-of-the-art, high resolution imaging technology that is increasingly employed in the study of bones, fossils and archaeological artifacts. It allows researchers to nondestructively explore the three-dimensional external and internal structure of these irreplaceable subjects. The system, which is housed in the Grady Early Forensic Anthropology Laboratory, allows researchers to nondestructively explore the three-dimensional external and internal structure of bone, fossilized remains and irreplaceable archaeological artifacts.

FACTS is a scientific research, educational training, and service center within the Department of Anthropology. FACTS faculty conduct research and train students in skeletal biology, and provide service to law enforcement by analyzing skeletal remains in a medicolegal context. FACTS also houses a rapidly growing documented human skeletal collection. The combination of a large documented human skeletal collection in the same laboratory with a micro-CT system will allow faculty and students to conduct scientific investigations into how habitual physical activities, age and body weight affect the microstructure of bones and to develop methods for determining whether trauma to a skeleton occurred at the time of or after death. This research will greatly advance scientific knowledge of bone functional adaptation and trauma. The micro-CT system will also provide a method of conducting virtual autopsies on skeletal remains. FACTS faculty will be able to accurately analyze and document injuries in skeletal remains and build virtual three-dimensional reconstructions of the implement used to cause sharp and blunt force trauma, which will greatly benefit legal investigations.

The X5000, produced by North Star Imaging, Inc., is a multi-axis, high-resolution digital X-ray inspection and computed tomography system with high-resolution flat panel detector. The X5000 system has the capabilities of advanced 2D x-ray inspection, 2D CT slice reconstruction, CT volume reconstruction for 3D inspection, and 3D internal and external surface scanning.