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A metaverse for 3D cell imaging



the National Research Council of Italy and the University of Naples have developed a three-dimensional visualization system of the cell within the metaverse, starting from the physical characteristics of an image produced under the microscope. The study was published in the journal Small Methods


Visualizing a cell in 3D using virtual reality: it is the result of a study conducted jointly by two Institutes of the National Research Council of Italy - the Institute of applied sciences and intelligent systems 'E. Caianiello' (Isasi) and the Institute of intelligent industrial systems and technologies for advanced manufacturing (Stiima) - in collaboration with the Department of molecular medicine and medical biotechnology of the University of Naples 'Federico II'.

The methodology, described in a study published in the journal Small Methods, 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 one 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”, describes Vittorio Bianco of Cnr-Isasi.

The researchers who authored the study have directed their activities towards the development of a new type of 'cytometry' which can operate without fluorescent markers, i.e. molecules capable of "colouring" and therefore distinguishing different intracellular organelles from each other but, at the same time, potentially toxic to cells. Today, the implementation of a '3D tomographic cytometry' method allows us to avoid the use of such markers (labels) and to return three-dimensional maps of each cell in flow. “This is how a totally immersive environment for microscopy was born, accessible via virtual reality headset. The user, be it a researcher, a doctor, a student, or a simply curious person, can immerse himself in a parallel world to undertake a journey between cells and within cells", explains Ettore Stella of Cnr-Stiima, who coordinates the Bari team which includes Maria Di Summa and Nicola Mosca.

During exploration, in addition to better visualizing the structures within each cell, one can access 'on-demand' all the information and data on its physical characteristics. "It's a Jules Verne-like journey, which allows one to peer into the the smallest details of the cellular structure in 3D from the preferred perspective: the combination of 3D tomographic cytometry and virtual reality opens up development scenarios on different aspects of cellular biology", specify Massimo D'Agostino and Tommaso Russo, from Unina.

The use of virtual reality could be decisive in future scenarios of medical diagnostics on ‘single cell imaging’ in which the highly advanced CIRO (Campania Imaging for Research in Oncology) research infrastructure financed by the Campania Region is involved, where the imaging technologies in the oncology field are studied and applied. “These results could prove to be a powerful tool to improve the study, analysis and sharing of data even by remote laboratories. Furthermore, this first innovative example of a "label-free" metaverse for 3D cells constitutes 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”, says Pietro Ferraro of Cnr-Isasi and President of the Scientific Committee of CIRO.


Link to the manuscript:

For information: Pietro Ferraro, Cnr-Isasi,, mob. 333.4702643 (contact details for professional use only, not be disclosed)

Per informazioni:
Pietro Ferraro
Cnr - Isasi

Ufficio stampa:
Danilo Santelli
Ufficio stampa Cnr

Responsabile Unità Ufficio stampa:
Emanuele Guerrini
06 4993 3383

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