A research team from Allen Institute for Brain Science has developed a new cost and time efficient technology named 'Virtual Finger' that lets the user navigate through digital images of complex biological structures such as cells and neurons, using their flat screen computers. Having huge benefits in the field of experimental biology, the software and its applications developed by these researchers is the newest working model of how a image analysis software ought to be. In the current software, the 3D image is separated into thin slices and each slice is viewed individually as a flat image on a computer screen. Scientists working on these images have to sift through the slices one at a time - a method that's inefficient when it comes to large amount of data (in terabytes).
Hanchuan Peng, Associate Investigator from the Allen Institute for Brain Science, believes that this is similar to being able to see an object through a glass window, but not being able to touch or manipulate it. Addressing this issue at hand, the Virtual Finger technology now allows scientists in navigating through 3D images more intuitively than ever before - by using their cursor. It analyzes the depth of the image too.
Putting the new tech to use, the Allen Institute researchers have already become successful in improving the detection of spikes from individual cells, and to better model the morphological structures of neurons. Moving beyond the realm of neuroscience, the potential of Virtual Finger encompasses all applications that involve biological experiments and methods of data analysis. In fact, they can also use it to perform 3D microsurgery to kill single cells, study the development of lung, and even create a map of a fly brain's neural connections
Source: Allen Institute
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