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Jun 01, 2020 PRINT EDITION

Where virtual reality (VR) is best known for its use in entertainment, it has also proved to be very beneficial for med-tech. Discovering more options for cancer treatment, scientists have created a VR 3D model of tumor to look at the disease from within.

Scientists in Cambridge have provided a new way to look at cancer by creating a 3D model of cancer that can be viewed and studied in VR. The tumor sample, which they took from a patient, can be studied in detail from all angles, with each individual cell mapped.

The researchers started with a 1mm cubed piece of breast cancer tissue biopsy that contained around 100,000 cells. Wafer thin slices were cut, scanned and then stained with markers for showing their molecular makeup and DNA characteristics, described BBC News.

With the help of VR, the tumor was rebuilt. The 3D tumor was then analyzed within a VR laboratory. Researchers claim that this virtual tumor will enhance their understanding of cancer and help in the search for new treatments.

This system also allows multiple users around the world to examine the tumor. One of the researchers, Greg Hannon told 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.”

The human tissue sample, though was very tiny, but could be magnified to appear several meters across. For studying it in more detail, the VR system also allows to ‘fly through’ the cells.

Another researcher Karen Vousden 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 tumors using this new system is so much more dynamic than the static 2D versions we are used to.”

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