Father of PET

Michel M. Ter-Pogossian (1925 – June 19, 1996) was an Armenian-American physicist who is one of the fathers of positron emission tomography (PET), the first functional brain imaging technology. PET could effectively be used to evaluate what areas of the brain were active during various mental processes versus looking at the structure of the brain through conventional CT.

Ter-Pogossian was born in Berlin, the only child of Armenian parents who had settled in Germany after escaping the Armenian Genocide during World War I. The family moved to France when Michel was a young child. He earned degrees in science from the University of Paris and from the Institute of Radium. In 1946, he emigrated to the United States to attend Washington University of St. Louis; he later joined the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine. He was married and had three children and five grandchildren.

PET scanning is one of the most promising techniques for cancer detection and has applications in monitoring heart disease. The development of new radioligands may allow more uses of positron emission tomography for other areas in medicine.

The technique uses the injection of ultrashort acting radioactive substances commonly bound to water or deoxyglucose. The deoxyglucose method directly measures brain metabolism whereas the radioactively labelled water is effective at measuring brain blood flow.

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