A system for high definition three-dimensional (3D) imaging of tissue, developed at the University of Leeds, will potentially offer a solution to many of the issues that have previously prevented pathologists from utilising imaging technologies in their work. As lead investigator Dr Darren Treanor of the University of Leeds and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has pointed out, "The use of 3D imaging technology to study structure, function, and disease manifestations has been limited because of low resolution, and the time and difficulty associated with acquiring large numbers of images with a microscope."
Details of the new software, developed by Dr Derek Magee, have been published in the May edition of The American Journal of Pathology
. Dr Magee's approach reduces the amount of manual interaction required and removes the need for a computing professional to operate the system. Using automated scanners, the system can produce a high resolution, digital 3D reproduction of any section of stained and mounted tissue. The scanner digitises and aligns the images collected to create a visualisation which the researcher can then zoom-in on.
The team has described a number of possible applications for the software, having already tested the technology on over 300 samples using a total of more than 5500 virtual slides. A database, or 'virtual archive', of 3D volume models is envisioned, with renderings of mouse embryos demonstrating the useful provision of data on anatomy and expression. Other examples include the ability to monitor the body's response to anti-angiogenic agents (which inhibit the formation of blood vessels) in the treatment of certain forms of carcinoma, and to diagnose and observe the development of hepatitis C in the livers of cirrhosis patients.
"Many fields, including tumor biology, embryology, and cardiovascular disease could benefit from correlation of structure and function in three dimensions, but getting high quality 3D reconstructions has always been difficult," explained Dr Treanor.
It is hoped that the system will enable wider use of 3D imaging in the field of histopathology, thereby providing greater understanding of disease symptoms, processes, and responses to treatments.