Health & Medicine - Posted by Paula Gould-Leeds on Monday, April 23, 2012 10:19 - 0 Comments
With virtual slides, check out tissue in 3-D
U. LEEDS (UK) — Using “virtual” microscope slides, computing experts and medical researchers have developed a fast, easy-to-use way of studying tissue samples in 3-D.
The digital scanning system produces high-resolution, multicolored images that can be rotated and examined from any angle.
Straight from the Source
The new approach, developed at the University of Leeds, is revealing more information about disease processes—information that could be used in the future to develop new therapies or explain why conventional treatments are not working.
Such 3-D views of tissue samples may also eventually play a role in clinical practice, as medical imaging technology provides even higher resolution images of tissue.
Digital 3-D reconstruction of tissue has many uses in biological and medical research. Viewing tissue in 3-D allows researchers to study its shape in ways that would not be possible with conventional methods.
For example, a biologist may want to study the structure of developing organs, a cancer specialist may study the branching of blood vessels supplying a tumor, or a liver specialist may need to understand how this vital organ reacts to damage caused by hepatitis C. All of these require an understanding of the shape of the tissue in three dimensions.
At the moment, hospital pathologists and medical researchers cut tissue samples into ultra-thin slices and examine these by hand, one-by-one, on a microscope. This is a fairly labor-intensive process—a single slide can contain several hundred thousand cells—and the number of slices examined will be limited by the time available.
To do a true 3-D analysis, users would need to look at hundreds of different 2-D sections—something that would be prohibitively expensive by hand.
In contrast, the new system requires almost no extra manual input once the tissue has been cut and mounted onto glass slides. An automated system turns batches of the slides into high-resolution digital images, which are then aligned using image registration software. Users can then study these virtual blocks of tissue in 3-D and zoom in on particular areas of interest.
The researchers have now tested the system on eight different types of tissue, using more than 13,000 virtual slides to create around 400 separate 3-D volumes. The system and selected case studies, including examples of liver disease, cancer, and embryology, are described in the May issue of the American Journal of Pathology.
“Up until now, the use of 3-D imaging technology to study disease has been limited because of low resolution, and the time and difficulty associated with acquiring large numbers of images with a microscope,” says lead investigator Darren Treanor, pathologist at the University of Leeds and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
“Our virtual system means that users can look at the shape and structure of cells and the ‘micro-architecture’ of blood vessels and tumors on large tissue samples. This can all be done without input from computing specialists.”
“Having a 3-D view can often make a real difference,” says Derek Magee, from the School of Computing who developed the software behind the system.
“For instance, if you want to understand how a system of blood vessels supplying a tumor connects up, you really need to see that in 3-D, not as a series of separate 2-D sections.”
The work was funded by the National Cancer Research Institute informatics initiative, Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust Research and Development, National Institute for Health Research, West Yorkshire Comprehensive Local Research Network, and UK Department of Health.
More news from University of Leeds: www.leeds.ac.uk/news