Innovative virtual technology provides 3D insight into the spleen
German researchers at the Universities of Bayreuth and Marburg are developing a new technology that allows them to take virtual tours inside the human body. So far, they have succeeded in creating images of the smallest of human blood vessels.
Computer scientists in Bayreuth led by Michael Guthe and Oleg Lobachev, and a group of anatomy researchers directed by Birte Steiniger in Marburg, have devised a way to use virtual reality glasses to obtain high-resolution images magnified thousands of times of tissues inside the spleen and bone marrow. What is more, they have developed new software that enables these images to be assembled to form 3D models.
Guthe and Lobachev say the technology is particularly interesting for basic medical research. At the same time, however, with faster computers capable of rapidly processing huge amounts of data, the technology could be used for diagnostics as well.
The innovation lets users take a trip through networks of blood vessels, many of which are only a few thousandths of a millimeter wide. It also allows them to examine these structures in much greater detail than ever possible before.
The teams have already made new discoveries about blood vessels in the spleen with their technology. Lobachev explains, "Our 3D models enable one to clearly see how the spleen is involved in blood circulation in the human body. The blood appears to flow from the open capillary ends in the splenic red pulp without being contained in vessels, before it re-enters venous circulation. Here it comes into direct contact with macrophages, which free the blood of harmful foreign materials and aged red blood cells.”