X-ray absorption-based imaging and its limitations in the differentiation of ancient mummified tissue

Wanek, Johann ; Székely, Gábor ; Rühli, Frank

In: Skeletal Radiology, 2011, vol. 40, no. 5, p. 595-601

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    Objectives: Differentiation of ancient tissues is of key importance in the study of paleopathology and in the evolution of human diseases. Currently, the number of imaging facilities for the non-destructive discrimination of dehydrated tissue is limited, and little is known about the role that emerging imaging technologies may play in this field. Therefore, this study investigated the feasibility and quality of dual-energy computed tomography (DECT) for the discrimination of dry and brittle soft tissue. Moreover, this study explored the relationship between morphological changes and image contrast in ancient tissue by using X-ray micro-tomography (micro-CT). Materials and Methods: An Egyptian mummy head and neck was scanned with DECT at tube voltage/current of 140kVp/27mAs (tube A) and 100kVp/120mAs (tube B). The CT attenuation was determined by regions of interest (ROI) measurements of hard and soft tissue of the mummy skull. Finally, two samples from the posterior neck were dissected to acquire micro-CT images of shrunken dehydrated tissue. Results: Dual-energy CT images demonstrated the high contrast resolution of surface structures from mummy skull. Bone density changes in the posterior skull base as well as soft-tissue alterations of the eyes and tongue were assessed. Micro-CT scans allowed the identification of morphological changes and the discrimination of muscle tissue from inorganic material in samples taken from the neck. Conclusions: Significant attenuation differences (p < 0.0007) were observed within 12 of the 15 ancient tissue groups and organic materials using DECT. We detected a correlation between X-ray scattering and image contrast reduction in dehydrated tissue with micro-CT imaging