Scientists Create Virtual Reality Maps of Tumors

Researchers at Cambridge University have paved a new way to look at cancer by building a virtual reality 3D model of the disease.

The model will allow deeper understanding of the tumor samples taken from patients and rebuilt in a virtual reality laboratory.

The team of fifteen scientists is led by Professor Greg Hannon, director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (CRUK), and their project is a part of the organization’s Grand Challenge Awards.

The team used established techniques such as DNA sequencing and imaging with new technology that they will invent, to study high-quality breast cancer samples.

As explained by BBC, 1mm cubed piece of the tissue biopsy, containing around 1,00,000 cells is cut into wafer thin slices, which are then scanned and stained with markers in order to show their molecular constitution and DNA characteristics. The tumor is then built using virtual reality in the laboratory.

This model can be viewed by multiple users at the same time.

Professor Hannon told the BBC,

"No-one has examined the geography of a tumour in this level of detail before; it is a new way of looking at cancer."

The development becomes significant because in order to understand cancer, scientists need to know everything about a tumor. Getting an accurate and precise picture of tumors at such an intricate level has not been possible until now.

The sample could be magnified considerably in the virtual laboratory, allowing a deeper examination.

Professor Karen Vousdan, chief scientist at CRUK, said:

"Understanding how cancer cells interact with each other and with healthy tissue is critical if we are going to develop new therapies - looking at tumours using this new system is so much more dynamic than the static 2D versions we are used to."

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