|MadSci Network: Medicine|
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 crystallography. 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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