Australian researchers from the University of Newcastle have claimed that they have developed the first one-of-its-kind virtual platform for storing three-dimensional (3D) copies of human cancer tissues. They say it is a new method of accessing information that can help treat the disease.
According to Xinhua, the researchers obtained small samples of donor patients’ tumour biopsies stored in a cancer bio-bank and then converted them into digital copies.
Dr. Jamie Flynn, one of the chief investigators for the project said, “It currently takes many months before researchers are able to obtain tissue samples from a physical bio-bank and carry out investigations with it. Once a researcher has performed their study, that sample typically cannot be reused.”
He further added, “This process ensures the physical sample remains intact, but a three dimensional, digital copy with clinical and experimental information is kept online for future use. This is particularly critical for rare cancers, which are hard to study due to a limited number of samples.”
“The Virtual Bio-bank will digitise and help speed up the process of accessing vital tissue samples donated by patients, which up until now could only be requested through physical bio-banks,” the University of Newcastle said.
Fellow chief investigator Dr. William Palmer provided more details, he added, “We’d also like to convert the 3-dimensional data into virtual reality for education and general awareness. Hopefully soon, anyone with a smartphone and Google Cardboard could experience the internal environment of cancer tissue and bring about new insights.”
“Each digital cancer sample in the Virtual Bio-bank is made up of high-resolution microscopy images in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional, plus important clinical and molecular information that provides the foundation for virtual research into cancer.” said Flynn.
The researchers of University of Newcastle collaborated on the platform with academics from the Hunter Medical Research Institute.