The arrival of a new CT scanner at Mayo Clinic is not usually worthy of a ribbon cutting ceremony, but this isn't your ordinary scanner. Destined solely for research, the first photon-counting-detector-based spectral CT ¬†to be put into service anywhere was recently delivered to Mayo's Radiology Research Division. Obtained through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the machine provides spatial resolution and material discrimination sensitivity at much lower radiation doses than conventional scanners. Reducing radiation exposure wherever possible has been a major objective for Cynthia McCollough, Ph.D. (sharing the scissors duty here). While the photo counting scanner will not be used for patients, it will allow researchers to study the pathological mechanisms of vascular wall failure, which, in turn could significantly impact early diagnosis and treatment of myocardial ¬†infarctions. Because of the high resolution capabilities, due in part to almost negligible electronic background noise, the exposure time needed is minimal for medically accurate images. Over the next five years, the¬†researchers will be studying scanning techniques and determining the accuracy and specificity of full body scans with a focus on atherosclerotic plaque formation. ¬†The goal is to ¬†non-invasively detect atherosclerosis in its earliest stages, before symptomatic consequences occur, as well as to optimize spectral CT for ultimate clinical use. Dr. Erik Ritman of Mayo is co-lead investigator on the study and brings decades of experience to the project, having been involved in the earliest days of CT imaging at Mayo.