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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

The Fascinating History Of X-ray

X rays have become an integral part of medical diagnosis. Have you ever thought what x-ray crystallography were, how they were discovered? Have a look!

What are X-rays?


X-rays help doctors identify the cause of the disease, Credits: pixabay

X–Radiations are electromagnetic radiations with a wavelength of about 0.01 to 10 nanometers. The frequency corresponding to X-rays is about 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz. The wavelength of x-rays is shorter than the ultraviolet and longer than the gamma radiation. X-rays could pass through materials with a particular density.

How X-rays were Discovered?


X-rays help identify fractures, Credits: pixabay

  1. Way back in the year 1895 the physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen at the University of Wuzburg, Germany discovered a new and unknown type of rays, which he called X-rays. He was doing some experiments related to electric discharges in glass vacuum tubes.

  2. He was not sure what type of rays it was and hence named X-rays.

  3. The first X-ray was his wife’s hands. A new branch of science called radiology was born, which is now highly useful in the medical diagnosis.

  4. William David Coolidge also made notable discoveries and advancements with X radiations. The tube that is used in X-rays is called the Coolidge tube. The applications of X-rays in medicine were based on Coolidge’s model.

  5. The first X-ray facilities started in Germany, England, France, and the US in 1896. X rays are now used to detect bone fractures and cancer cells.

  6. By the 1930’s, X-rays were a routine part of diagnostics.

  7. There have been rapid developments in the use of X-rays these days in the form of CT, X-ray diffraction, and X-ray crystallography.

How Do X-rays Work?


A patient undergoing X-ray, Credits: pixabay

Medical x-rays are used to generate images of tissues and structures inside the body. If x-rays traveling through the body also pass through an x-ray detector on the other side of the patient, an image will be formed that represents the “shadows” formed by the objects inside the body.

The x-ray detector is a photographic film, but the type of detector can vary. The resulting images from the X-rays are termed as radiographs.

How X-rays Revolutionized Medicine?

X-Rays Helped Reveal the Structure of DNA

X-ray crystallography

Structure of DNA through X-ray crystallography, Credits: pixabay

There have been tremendous advancements in Genetics and genetic engineering. Thanks to Rosalind Franklin who used X-ray crystallography to decipher the double-helical structure of DNA in the early 1950s.

X-Rays Helped Treat Tuberculosis

Chest x-ray

A physician viewing a radiograph, Credits: pexels

In the 20th century, tuberculosis was a deadly infectious disease, and X-rays were used for diagnosis and treatment of the disease. X-rays revolutionized tuberculosis treatments. Chest X-rays allowed physicians to detect shadows in the lungs which helped them frame effective treatment options.

X-rays To Treat Cancer

X-rays are used to kill tumor tissues and cancer radiotherapy is a routine practice these days.

What are the Types of X-rays?

Computer Tomography

Advanced X rays, Credits: pexels

S.NoType of X-raysApplications1Computed TomographyDiagnosis of blood clots, blood vessel aneurysms, and coronary artery disease.2X-ray diffractionThis technique is used to view the atomic and molecular structures of materials. This technique is used in nephrology3X-ray crystallographyThis is used to characterize the structure of macromolecules.4Digital x-rayThe radiation is less compared to the traditional X-rays. Resolution is high and the overall process is fast.5Kidney, Ureter, and Bladder X-ray

To identify abdominal pain, to evaluate structures of the urinary and gastrointestinal system6Teeth and bones X-rays

Help the dentist to look at the roots, bones, teeth and supporting tissues of the mouth7Chest X-raysTo identify conditions like shortness of breath, persistent cough, chest pain, and lung cancer8Lungs X-raysThe asymmetry of lung density is identified.9Abdomen X-raysTo visualize small and large intestines, liver, and stomach. To identify the cause of nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting.10MammogramsTo identify breast cancer11OPG (Orthopantomagram)This is a high-quality dental X-ray of the upper and lower jaw12Foot x-rayCommonly used to identify signs and symptoms such as pain, tenderness, swelling, or deformities. Broken bones and dislocated joints are also identified.

Take-Home Message

X-rays are powerful diagnostic tools that help identify the cause of the disease and locate and kill cancers.

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