Researchers at the Charles III University of Madrid (UC3M) in Spain and university spinoff company 4DNature have developed a three-dimensional (3D) imaging technique called helical optical projection tomography, which consists of rotating a sample while moving it vertically in order to then obtain a 3D image. The technique enables 3D images of living organisms to be obtained with greater speed and precision, and has utility in biomedicine and in basic research.
“With our design and the software we are developing, we can create equipment that is not available commercially and that has the advantage of evolving at the same time as the project it is being used for progresses,” explains Jorge Ripoll, a partner in 4DNature and professor in UC3M’s Bioengineering Department. In fact, in addition to other technologies, such as live quantitative imaging and 3D microscopy, their technique can integrate into the machines that they specially produce for their clients.
This type of technology is essential in the development of new medicines and sensors, as well as for carrying out other types of biomedical research applicable to clinical diagnostic imaging, explain the researchers. One of the keys to the successful use of these technologies is that the programs that control them be intuitive and user-friendly. “It has taken around eight years to develop, fine-tune, and validate this software and get it to where it is now,” states Ripoll, for whom one of the keys here is technical support: “Software that is problem-free and easy to use is closer to success.”
For almost 10 years, the researchers and promoters at 4DNature, among whom are scientists such as Alicia Arranz and César Nombela Arrieta, have been developing prototypes that are similar to the current systems, having installed this type of equipment in various countries, such as Germany, Spain, Greece, Israel, and Switzerland. “This has allowed us to develop parallel ‘user-friendly’ software to control those systems, which we could then test and optimize until we reached the point we are at now,” says Ripoll, who has been awarded a European Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (a research fellowship) to develop this type of advanced imaging equipment.
UC3M’s Vivero de Empresas del Parque Científico (Business Incubator of the Science Park) has supported the creation of 4DNature, which it accompanied in its first steps following its successful participation in the 6th Concurso de Ideas UC3M (UC3M Ideas Competition). “Since we are scientists, being here has offered us fundamental training for starting up a company, guided us through certain difficult choices through the legal framework, and put us in contact with highly qualified professionals,” comments Ripoll. “UC3M’s Parque Científico and la Oficina de Transferencia de Resultados de Investigación (Science Park and Office of Research Results Transfer),” he adds, “are essential tools for knowledge transfer and, in our experience, I think they should receive the maximum support so that they can become an integral part of university life at every level."
Full details of the work appear in the journal Optics Express; for more information, please visit http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?URI=oe-21-22-25912.
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