Scientists at the University of Cambridge in the UK have constructed a virtual reality model of a cancer tumor.
The technology will allow researchers to study the disease from a different perspective to increase our understanding of cancer. This novel approach may also be a basis for the development of new treatments.
To create the VR model researchers, start with a real tumor sample containing around 100,000 cells. Thin slices are cut and stained with markers to show their DNA characteristics and molecular make-up. The tumor is then rebuilt using VR and can be analyzed in a virtual reality laboratory.
Multiple users wearing 3D virtual reality headsets can step into the tumor simultaneously to study it.
Prof Greg Hannon, director of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Institute, told the BBC: “No-one has examined the geography of a tumor in this level of detail before; it is a new way of looking at cancer.”
Within the VR laboratory, users become avatars while the cancer is represented by a multicolored mass of bubbles.
Although in the real world the cells are tiny they can be magnified to several meters across in the VR lab.
This innovative project is part of CRUK’s Grand Challenge Awards, a series of grants for international and multidisciplinary teams that are willing to take on the most difficult challenges in cancer research.
Among the challenges to be addressed are: