3-D Images Facilitate Diagnosis

The machine works by rotating the cell under the microscope lens and taking hundreds of pictures per rotation, and then digitally combining them to form a single 3-D image.

The 3-D visualizations could lead to big advances in early cancer detection, since clinicians today identify cancerous cells by using 2-D pictures to assess the cells' shape and size.

"It's a lot easier to spot a misshapen cell if you can see it from all sides," explained Eric Seibel, who is a University of Washington (UW) associate professor and has participated in developing. "A 2-D representation of a 3-D object is never perfectly accurate – imagine trying to get an exact picture of the moon, seeing only one side."

The new microscope, known by the trademarked name Cell-CT, is so named because it works similarly to a CT-scan – though on a very small scale, and using visible light instead of X-rays. In a CT-scan, the patient is immobile while the X-ray machine rotates. In the Cell-CT microscope, each cell is embedded in a special gel inside a glass tube that rotates in front of a fixed camera that takes many pictures per rotation. The gel has similar optical properties to the tube's so that no light reflects off the glass. In both processes, the end result is that hundreds of pictures are assembled to form a 3-D image that can be viewed and rotated on a computer screen.

The new microscope is also more precise than other 3-D machines currently available. All other microscopes producing 3-D images have poor resolution in the up-down direction, the direction between the sample and the microscope's lens, Seibel said.

Qin Miao, a UW bioengineering doctoral student, used a tiny plastic particle of known dimensions to show the microscope's resolution. He found that the UW group's machine has three times better accuracy in that up-down direction than standard microscopes used in cancer detection.

"This means we can do quantitative analysis of cells," Miao said. "This kind of undistorted image is difficult to achieve using other technology."

COMPAMED.de; Source: University of Washington