Virtual reality breakthrough allows scientists to ‘walk’ inside human cells

Published 16 October 2020, 06:27

What if there was a machine that could allow scientists to travel into the body and examine actual human cells? It sounds like something from the movie “Inner Space,” but virtual reality is making it a very real possibility. Researchers in the United Kingdom are using VR Headsets and revolutionary software to figuratively “walk” around inside cells.

Super-resolution microscopy makes it possible to take pictures at the nanoscale. This breakthrough allows scientists to view biological processes at the molecular level. Until now however, they couldn’t see what was happening in three dimensions.

“Biology occurs in 3D, but up until now it has been difficult to interact with the data on a 2D computer screen in an intuitive and immersive way,” says Dr. Steven F. Lee from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry in a university release. “It wasn’t until we started seeing our data in virtual reality that everything clicked into place.”

Virtual reality: ‘An entirely different perspective’

Virtual reality software can allow millions of data points to be loaded and shared with partners doing research worldwide.

For scientists, running analysis on millions of data can be very time consuming. But with virtual reality, we have managed to vastly reduce that wait time allowing for more rapid testing and analysis.

For now, Cambridge researchers is using this VR breakthrough to build biological datasets on neurons, immune cells, and cancer cells. Specifically, we are currently studying how antigens enable an immune response in humans. The lead researcher adds being able to actually walk inside the human body has already allowed them to rule out old theories and make new ones about human biology.




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