Did you know that you can travel through the brain?
In the science fiction film Fantastic Voyage from 1966, a group of doctors is shrunk down so that they can move through the human body in a miniaturized submarine. They travel along the bloodstream up to the brain where they remove a dangerous clot. Doctors are now close to making this vision a reality thanks to immersive microscopy.
Doctors can navigate through real samples of complex brain structures using the power of virtual reality (VR) and newest 3D rendering techniques. What makes this technology so innovative is that these 3D images do not depict artificial worlds created by computer graphic artists, but real tissue samples.
How does this work? First, conventional tissue sections or even whole tissue samples are prepared, e.g. from the brain of a mouse. These samples are then captured with high-resolution light, electron, or X-ray microscopy and displayed in 3D using powerful software algorithms. Data from computed tomography can also be employed for VR journeys into the brain: the researcher puts on a VR headset and can then move through the organ just as if they were sitting in a mini-submarine. Working together with arivis, a 3D software company, ZEISS has developed prototypes for this type of immersive microscopy.
Today it is already possible for users to make their way through the 3D visualizations of real tissue samples by just moving their head. This way they have a much better understanding of the space within the brain structure than with traditional methods such as looking at imaged tissue on a flat screen. Even interactive measurements and analyses can already be performed in the virtual environment. In future versions it will even be possible to touch or change the samples so that VR operations will one day become a reality.
8 MAR 2017