Histology Goes 3-D with Imaging Technique

State-of-the-art diagnostic imaging technology is being optimized by Belgian researchers to create three-dimensional images of a microscopic object--without destroying the object being studied.

"Current methods of evaluating the internal structure of objects on a microscopic scale is an invaluable tool in medicine but necessitates fixing the tissues in formalin, embedding them in paraffin wax, and slicing the tissues thinly with a microtome prior to assessment," explained Dr. Veerle Cnudde from Ghent University, corresponding author of the study, "Virtual histology by means of high-resolution X ray CT."

Cnudde continued, "The method we described in our study, called virtual histology, is a non-destructive technique that uses a series of X rays taken from different angles to create a three-dimensional representation of the internal structure of an object."

This virtual histology technique would be invaluable in a medical setting because it:

  • Provides immediate and automated three dimensional visualization of the sample;
  • Does not require fixing, slicing, staining, or any other form of sample processing prior to imaging;
  • Provides results more quickly than conventional histology, and;
  • Depending on the sample size can reach a resolution of one micron, which is equivalent to standard light microscopy-based histology (currently used in veterinary medicine).
  • Implementation of this or a similar technology would be invaluable in equine practice, but is not likely to be available for some time.

This study on virtual histology was published in the December 2008 edition of the Journal of Microscopy.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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