MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: How is holography used in medicine?

Date: Fri Feb 23 16:16:11 2001
Posted By: Joshua Chai, Medical student, Medical Sciences, University of Cambridge
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 980107919.Me

Holographic technology is still at its infancy in modern medicine. The 
major advantage of holography is that it can re-produce the 3D spatial 
relationship rather accurately on a suitable photographic material using 
sets of laser beam, so that when visible light is reflected at suitable 
angle, the original specimen can be viewed with a realistic 3D "feel". 
Holographic technology is mainly employed in medical education. 
Traditionally, when biochemists want to demonstrate the 3D structure of 
chemical molecules to students (or indeed colleagues), they can either use 
the real "balls-and-sticks" model or more often nowadays use the computer 
technology. With holography, biochemists can accurately produce a "hard-
copy" to show molecules in 3D using data obtained from X-ray diffration 
Anatomists can also make use of holography to show the 3D relationship of 
our body anatomy. Our generation of medical students all learn anatomy 
from human dissection with the aid of atlas of anatomy, but I have seen 
examples of holographically edited body atlas which can give the 3D 
impression that normal paper version cannot provide. 
For diagnostic purposes, modern neural science also makes use of 
holography technology. I am sure you must have heard of the CAT 
(Computerised Axial Topography) scan and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) 
scan. Traditionally, when neurosurgeons want to plan an operation or to 
visualise the lesion in their patients, they often have to do so from many 
individual CAT scans and then reconstruct the 3D image in their mind using 
their skill and anatomical knowledge. With holographic technologies, 
neural scientists can construct holograph of the whole brain (or part of 
it concerning the lesion) using data obtained from individual CAT scans, 
and hence simplify the whole process. You can think of it like “stacking” 
up individual CAT scans in virtual space and then taking thousands of 
photos of it at many different angles. Of course the major disadvantage of 
holography is the loss of colour specificity, which sometimes can be a 
real nuisance in modern medicine; and a recent search in Nature still 
provides no new development in this field.

Joshua Chai
Medical Student
University of Cambridge, UK

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