Written by Alex Crees
It revolutionized the way we watch movies, and now, it’s revolutionizing the way doctors treat illnesses. Three-dimension is the new frontier of medicine, according to physicians at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
The new technology called CAVE, which is short for ‘Cave Automatic Virtual Environment’, is essentially a three-dimensional virtual reality room. It projects images on four walls to allow researchers to voyage inside the molecular structure of cells and parts of the human body.
This way, physicians can interact with the data and actually see the cells in their true, 3-D state, which was not possible before.
Physicians believe that using CAVE will help them better understand how to study and treat a variety of diseases located in places that they cannot physically penetrate, like the brain.
“You can see which proteins are next to each other, which proteins come together under different conditions at different times in different parts of the cell,” said Dr. Harel Weinstein, chairman of Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medical College. “You are inside the cell.”
The CAVE works by using a mathematical algorithm to rearrange normal two-dimensional MRI data segments to create a 3-D object. The result is a room where researchers can actually stand inside a representation of the anatomical structures they are studying.
“It is this idea that allows us to go to any object for which these kinds of segments are available,” Weinstein said. “We can go into cells, into organs, into the brain, and anywhere else.”
Once inside, physicians can ‘move’ through the 3-D object and peel away its layers with the use of the remote.
“It allows us to understand how certain structures interact, what might be going on in certain diseases,” said Dr. Szilard Kiss, an ophthalmologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and Weill Cornell Medical College.
Kiss uses the CAVE technology to better understand disease processes in the eye.
“When we look at an X-ray, when we look at an MRI, we’re looking at one flat picture,” Kiss said. “It doesn’t really tell the whole story.