[This project is an example of the most positive uses of VR and presence; the story is from Alphr, where it includes other images and a 1:46 minute video. For more information follow the link at the end of the story, see coverage from the CBC (including another video) and read the press release via EurekaAlert! –Matthew]
[Image: Creating A Virtual Reality Tumour graphic. Source: University of Cambridge.]
Virtual-reality tumour gives researchers a whole new way to study cancer
VR project among first four winners of £100 million Cancer Research UK challenge
10 Feb 2017
“I’d call a tumour an ecosystem,” says Professor Greg Hannon, of Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute. It’s a description that emphasises the fact that cancer is not a monolithic growth to be squashed, but a complex community of cell types that interact with each other in ways we don’t yet fully understand.
At Cancer Research UK’s headquarters, Hannon explains a project that wants to use virtual reality to help researchers understand how tumour cells work alongside each other – a project that has just been awarded funding of up to £20 million, as part of Cancer Research’s £100 million Grand Challenge initiative.
“What we’re trying to do is look at that ecosystem as a whole,” explains Hannon. “Not only look at the host cell types, and not only thinking about the cancer cells, but thinking about the cancer cells as an evolving community.”
Two problems facing cancer researchers are how to capture the vast amounts of information that are held by a tumour’s ecosystem, and how to make sense of it. Hannon and an intercontinental team of researchers, doctors, patients, astronomers and game developers are setting out to address both these issues.
The aim is to make a 3D model of a patient’s tumour, as a spatial, intuitive means for researchers to study a wide variety of information about the sample – both in terms of individual cells, and how they interact with neighbours and host cells. To gather the data, specialised microscopes will be built from scratch, and the team will collect genetic information for each of the millions of cells that exist within a tumour.
The idea of a virtual-reality tumour may sound like an unnecessary gimmick in the fight against cancer, but Hannon explains that new ways of thinking about how to comprehend information are needed when you’re dealing with such large sets of data.
“The amount of information we want to create is immense,” he says. “This is a level of information, given current technologies, that’s difficult for humans to understand and analyse. So we’re having to invent new ways to interact with this data. Our first pass at that is to try and take those large datasets, from a computer screen, and to present them in virtual reality.” Read more on Virtual-reality tumour gives researchers a whole new way to study cancer…