Google maps have not only helped us to get to our destinations much easier but has also aided in exploring our surroundings on another level. Now, with the help of the same software, a group of international researchers is able to zoom into the human body right up to the cellular level.
Currently, this technology is helping researchers to understand osteoarthritis and chronic joint pain, which is often seen in elderly people, by studying the hip tissue better. This can then be used for other tissues as well to have a clearer understanding of other problems as well.
Melissa Knothe Tate, an engineer and biologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia who is leading the project, came up with the idea for the project after previous research into how transfer of nutrients among blood, cartilage, and bone tissues affects the onset of osteoarthritis.
In order to understand this cellular traffic in humans, numerous photos of the hip bone were taken with a scanning electron microscope. This data was then compiled by the researchers and terabytes of data is fed into Google’s algorithms, which allow a user to zoom in or zoom out on the tissues just like we do with Google maps. Without this, the team would have taken 25 years to complete the molecular analysis of the tissue.
“For the first time we have the ability to go from the whole body down to how the cells are getting their nutrition and how this is all connected,” Knothe Tate said. “This could open the door to as yet unknown new therapies and prevention.”
While Knothe Tate, plans on finding treatments for osteoarthritis in the high, other researchers from Harvard University, who are familiar with this project want to test the same scenarios for the connections in the mouse brain.