Walking inside individual cells

It could be used to understand fundamental problems in biology.


Scientists at the University of Cambridge and 3D image analysis software company Lume VR Ltd. have developed a virtual reality software called vLUME that allows us to ‘walk’ inside and analyze individual cells. In addition, the software allows super-resolution microscopy data to be visualized and analyzed in virtual reality and can be used to study everything from individual proteins to entire cells.

Dr. Steven F. Lee from Cambridge‘s Department of Chemistry said, “Biology occurs in 3D, but up until now it has been difficult to interact with the data on a 2D computer screen in an intuitive and immersive way. It wasn’t until we started seeing our data in virtual reality that everything clicked into place.”

Alexandre Kitching, CEO of Lume, said, “vLUME is revolutionary imaging software that brings humans into the nanoscale. It allows scientists to visualize, question, and interact with 3D biological data, in real-time, all within a virtual reality environment, to find answers to biological questions faster. It’s a new tool for discoveries.”

By allowing us to see our virtual reality data, the software could be the game-changer in biology. It can stimulate new initiatives and ideas.

Anoushka Handa
Anoushka Handa

For testing, Anoushka Handa – a Ph.D. student from Lee’s group, used vLUME to imager her immune cell taken from her blood. What she experienced was fascinating. She stood inside her cell in virtual reality.

She said, “It’s incredible – it gives you an entirely different perspective on your work.”

Kitching said, “The software allows multiple datasets with millions of data points to be loaded in and finds patterns in the complex data using in-built clustering algorithms. These findings can then be shared with collaborators worldwide using the image and video features in the software.”

“Data generated from super-resolution microscopy is extremely complex. For scientists, running an analysis of this data can be very time-consuming. With vLUME, we have managed to vastly reduce that wait time allowing for more rapid testing and analysis.”

Lee said“Through segmenting and viewing the data in vLUME, we’ve quickly been able to rule out certain hypotheses and propose new ones. This software allows researchers to explore, analyze, segment, and share their data in new ways. All you need is a VR headset.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Alexander Spark et al. ‘vLUME: 3D Virtual Reality for Single-molecule Localization Microscopy.’ Nature Methods, (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41592-020-0962-1


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