Waterloo-developed digital X-ray could help northern communities

Researchers at KA Imaging have received a $1 million grant to develop a digital X-ray that has better image quality, lower radiation and is more affordable than older versions.

New X-ray has better image quality, lower radiation and is more affordable

A digital X-ray developed in Waterloo has better image quality and lower radiation than its older counterparts and is more affordable to manufacture.

KA Imaging has received $1 million through the Grand Challenges Canada fund through the federal government to ramp up development of a digital X-ray.

"The whole backbone of the idea was if you could make X-ray into a very inexpensive point-of-care diagnostic, that would help alleviate a whole number of global health issues," the company's chief technology officer Karim Karim said.

Need to make it affordable

Old chest X-rays use analog film and that can be finicky.

While digital X-rays exist, they are large and expensive.

"Let's make digital X-ray something that's a reality globally and the best way to do that was to come up with a process for making digital X-ray that will allow for a reduction in the cost of manufacturing," Karim said.

What KA Imaging developed was a prototype of a digital X-ray that used LCD technology which lowered the cost of the X-ray.

It achieves the same accuracy as conventional chest X-rays, but uses a lower dose of radiation, something Karim said has been a growing concern.

Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada, said in a release that the projects that received the grant money "show how innovation can accelerate international development to save and improve the lives of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people."

Testing of their first prototype was done in Zambia. The technology could benefit third-world nations - with X-rays being able to be sent to doctors around the world instantaneously - but Karim said the X-ray could also be used here.

"It's something that could benefit Canadians right here because we have a fair number of northern communities who could benefit from technology like this," he said.