Virtual reality offers the possibility of studying cells without the use of fluorescent markers, i.e. molecules capable of “colouring” and therefore distinguishing between the different intracellular organelles but, at the same time, potentially toxic to cells. It was shown by a study conducted jointly by two Institutes of the National Research Council: Institute of Applied Sciences and Intelligent Systems “E. Caianiello” (ISASI) and Institute of Intelligent Industrial Technologies and Systems for Advanced Manufacturing (STIIMA) ‒ in collaboration with the Department of Molecular Medicine and Medical Biotechnology of the University of Naples “Federico II”, with results published in the journal Small Methods.
The researchers developed a three-dimensional visualization system of the cell within the metaverse. The methodology falls within the sector of flow cytometry, techniques used in the laboratory to detect and identify specific cells through the analysis of the physical characteristics of each of them.
“The developed method, called ‘Generalized Computational Segmentation based on Statistical Inference’ (Generalized CSSI), allows us to visualize and obtain quantitative parameters of a cell starting from the image obtained through the tomographic microscope, i.e. a microscope capable of generating a 3D image of its internal organelles,” explained Vittorio Bianco, CNR-ISASI.
The implementation of a ‘3D tomographic cytometry method allows us to avoid the use of fluorescent (label) markers and return three-dimensional maps of each cell in flow. “This is how a totally immersive environment for microscopy was born, accessible via virtual reality headsets. The user, be it a researcher, a doctor, a student, or a curious person, can immerse themselves in a parallel world to undertake a journey between cells and within cells,” described Ettore Stella, CNR-STIIMA, coordinator of the Bari team which includes Maria Di Summa and Nicola Mosca.The use of virtual reality could be decisive in future scenarios of medical diagnostics on single cell imaging. “These results could prove to be a powerful tool to improve the study, analysis and sharing of data even by remote laboratories. In addition, this first innovative example of a ‘label-free’ metaverse for 3D cells represents a virtual reality platform that will open up new scenarios for training, teaching and outreach activities, providing observers with a unique, informative and more engaging experience on cell biology,” said Pietro Ferraro, CNR-ISASI.