4 ways healthcare is taking advantage of 3-D

We may be closer than ever to understanding the complex anatomy of the human brain, thanks to the introduction of a new three-dimensional tool that has created a digital reconstruction of the human brain, called the BigBrain.

The tool, which show brain anatomy in "microscopic detail," was developed by German and Canadian researchers and outlined in the June 21 issue of Science, according to an announcement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. According to the Washington Post, the researchers used a 65-year-old woman's brain, cut into 7,400 slices, in building the atlas.

"The authors pushed the limits of current technology," Science senior editor Peter Stern said in the announcement. "Such spatial resolution exceeds that of presently available reference brains by a factor of 50 in each of the three spatial dimensions."

The creation got us thinking about other ways the healthcare industry is taking advantage of 3-D technology. Three others come to mind, including:

  •  President Obama wants to map the human brain, as he announced earlier this year, first in his State of the Union address, and then again in April. His BRAIN initiative takes aim at finding cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, and is backed by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, providing approximately $100 million in funding beginning in 2014.
  • The National Institutes of Health granted researchers at Washington University in St. Louis a $2.25 million grant for creating 3-D models to study brain mechanics to gain a better understanding about what happens to the brain during traumatic brain injury. The researchers are especially concerned with what happens to one's head after hitting it during sports, especially prevalent in the National Football league, where a lawsuit representing almost one-third of living former NFL players regards head injuries.
  • In late April, it was found that adding 3-D digital breast tomosynthesis to conventional mammography, which is 2-D, finds more cancers and reduces false positive rates, according to a study published in Lancet Oncology. More than 7,000 women were included in the study--and using 3-D combined with traditional mammography found 8.1 cancers per 1,000 examinations compared to 5.3 cancers with only traditional mammography.

To learn more:
- read the AAAS announcement
- read the Washington Post article