From the classroom to the surgical table: 3-D trends in healthcare

The New York University School of Medicine's use of 3-D technology as a way to help medical students dissect virtual cadavers was well outlined in a recent New York Times article earlier this week. According to the article, students can use computer controls to navigate through undisturbed layers of virtual tissue and bone, something one designer of the technology likened to a "living digital textbook."

NYU hardly is the only place where 3-D technology is prevalent in healthcare today, however. Last Friday, for instance, VisionGate, a cancer-detection technology company, announced its Cell-CT 3D imaging system achieved full automation thanks in large part to a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The technology is being used to non-invasively test for the diagnosis of lung cancer, particularly for patients who are considered high-risk.

Meanwhile, Businessweek reports this week on the efforts of Organovo, a startup focusing on potential construction of a 3-D printer that would be able to create human organs for use in transplants. In 2009, Organovo created a bioprinter that uses human cells to "print functional human tissue," the article says.

What's more, the da Vinci robotic surgical system, which continues to grow in popularity, allows surgeons to see their operating field in magnified HD 3-D according to the Pocono Record. Pocono Medical Center in Stroudsburg, Pa., recently added a da Vinci system to its surgical arsenal.

While da Vinci has seen continued success over the years, it will be interesting to see how the latter three technologies trend. John J. Qualter, who helped to design the virtual technology described in the NYT piece, ultimately hopes his project goes mainstream.

"We want to become a scalable model ... a Google Earth for the human body," he tells the newspaper.

To learn more:
- read the NYT piece
- check out VisionGate's announcement
- here's the Businessweek article
- read the Pocono Record story