A new kind of Google Maps for the human body has been created by engineers that offers the most detailed view of the human anatomy.
Engineers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have unveiled a technology that lets you explore the human body down to the level of an individual cell. The zoom-able tool piggybacks on Google Maps’ algorithm to take you on a close-up tour of the structures that make us who we are.
Though the tour is quite rudimentary, data is being continually added and is hoped will help researchers and doctors to better understand and treat disease, shared Melissa Knothe Tate, a biomedical engineer from UNSW Engineering who is leading the project.
“For the first time we have the ability to go from the whole body down to how the cells are getting their nutrition and how this is all connected. This could open the door to as yet unknown new therapies and preventions.”
The team announced the ambitious but highly-informative project at the Orthopaedic Research Society meeting in Las Vegas earlier this week. The event was chosen specifically owing to the applications of the technology. Knothe Tate explained that she’s currently using the technology to research osteoarthritis — one of the leading causes of disability in the elderly.
The Google Maps for the Body allows researchers to drastically cut down the time needed to study the human anatomy in exceptional detail. Currently, the map is allowing the team to see how the different tissues and cells of the hip work together in their natural environment to create a healthy joint. Such research, via conventional methods, would have taken the team more than 25 years, but the technology has shortened the time required to just a couple of weeks, explained Knothe Tate.
Google Maps for the body is based on an advanced electron microscope technique originally developed by German optical and industrial measurement manufacturing company Zeiss. Originally intended to inspect silicon wafers, the microscope is now being used with the algorithm created by the team in conjunction with U.S.-based Cleveland Clinic, as well as Brown and Stanford Universities.
The engineer states that the technology is already helping other teams explore the neural pathways and connections in the brains of mice. It is only a matter of time before such highly-detailed views of other parts of the body will be used for analysis.
Despite the fact that Google Maps for the body is meant for medical research, the team hopes their technology would be available for anyone interested in “cruising around” the human body.
[Image Credit | UNSW Engineering]