Barco announced that it has been chosen to deliver the visualization for the Virtual Reality program for molecular imaging and exploratory genome research in Erasmus MC Rotterdam, the largest academic medical center in the Netherlands. The "Barco I-Space" virtual environment has been officially opened on March 24, 2005 by the mayor of Rotterdam. The I-space enables scientists to "walk through" massive volumes of genomic, chemical, and medical information and extract more information in a shorter timeframe than by using conventional approaches. Moreover, it enables clinicians and researchers to explore and visualize in 3D Ultrasound, CT and MRI images.
Molecular Medicine is a fast moving field and a new buzz word. The recent acquisition of Amersham by General Electric Healthcare illustrates its importance. Visualization of tracers and molecular markers in medical images (scans) becomes more and more important for clinical diagnostics surgical intervention and drug development.
The unraveling of the genetic information encoded in the DNA of human cells has generated a rapid progress in understanding the roles of our genes in health and disease. Over the years Erasmus MC has made important contributions to this field.
Nowadays further progress requires the introduction of advanced infrastructure for data visualization and integration to analyze the enormous quantities of data involved. With its new Center for Bioinformatics equipped with a virtual reality environment Erasmus MC has taken up this challenge.
Located in the heart of the biomedical research activities of Erasmus MC, the high-tech bioinformatics department is equipped with state of the art hard- and software. In collaboration with other departments the center's multidisciplinary team supports projects that generate genomics and proteomics data from basic research, forensics studies, molecular diagnostics and clinical trials. Erasmus MC is the first university medical center to install a virtual reality environment developed and implemented by Barco for the support of clinical and research applications.
The I-space enables researchers to explore vast amounts of genomics and proteomics data in an infinite three-dimensional world. It also presents clinicians with new ways to investigate datasets from all kinds of 3D imaging modalities, ranging from 3D/4D ultrasound for prenatal diagnosis to functional MRI for molecular imaging. The I-space makes it possible to discover relations and structures that would go unnoticed when using conventional software on regular 2D computer screens.
In the Barco I-Space research analysts stand inside a cube that has 4 sides forming a seamless three–dimensional virtual surrounding. 3D views in the Barco I-Space can show hierarchical relationships within gene families, and many to many relationship networks of gene expression data or protein-protein interactions. By integrating data from various databases such as chromosomal localization of genes, links/associations with diseases, micro array expression data, one can identify correlations that remain hidden with the conventional approaches. Assigning different colors to the nucleotides in DNA clarifies the image. By applying image-processing techniques, distinct features begin to emerge and areas for further study can be identified at a glance. Next to stereo vision (different images for left and right eye to enable depth cues), the Barco I-Space includes motion tracking, where hand and head movements are measured and fed back to the computer, thus allowing researchers to interact with the image.
Advantage: Multi disciplinary Discussion of complex datasets
Barco's I-Space state-of-the-art visualization tool will allow an interdisciplinary team of scientists with diverse backgrounds including Medicine, Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Statistics, and Computer Science to explore the human genome with cutting edge IT technology and thereby improving the understanding of genomes in general and identification of gene functions, disease markers and pathways in particular.
Barco, SGI, Erasmus MC Collaboration and Development
"The expertise of Barco, including project consulting, analysis and design of the visualization installation with projectors, proprietary developed screens and precision mechanical construction for a seamless high resolution image with excellent stereo separation, was essential for the successful realization of this unique project" states prof.dr.Peter J. van der Spek, professor at the dept. of bioinformatics, "The Barco professionals were essential to draft a project plan to make sure we selected the most appropriate projectors and technology for visualization of research and clinical data."
The VR-installation for Erasmus MC offers high resolution, high contrast and brightness, good color uniformity, a well-balanced color depth and excellent stereo separation essential for clinical decision making.
"In the same way as Barco is the leading company in high resolution visualization SGI has the track record in the field of graphics computation. We realized we could create a win-win-win situation for all parties by the joint development and integration of each others expertise", says prof. dr. Peter J. van der Spek.
The center also runs a research program of its own, which provides the biomedical and technological basis of all the other activities ranging from basic research, forensic studies, molecular diagnostics and clinical trials.
It concentrates on the way the genome as a whole contributes to the evolution, development, structure and function of the brain.
Among others it involves analysis of gene expression in cells of the brain and combines genomics, proteomics and cytogenetics data to identify genes associated with neurological disorders. A particular focus lies on studying the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal migration disorders that lead to epilepsy. For this purpose in dept studies of MRI scans are needed to detect neurons that have not migrated to the proper place in the brain during development. This multi disciplinary effort is a collaboration between radiologist Maarten Lequin, Clinical Geneticist Grazia Mancini and the bioinformatics department.
Moreover, Erasmus MC currently applies VR technology in the field of 3D/4D Ultrasound for prenatal diagnosis, 3D/4D Ultrasound for diagnosis of heart defects, and last but not least CT/MRI scans for tumor inspection.