Microscopes capable of detailed 3D imaging are getting cheaper, so more people around the world get a peek at life hiding deep within cells and tissues. “Seeing is believing” perhaps – but is touching even better? While 3D printing turns digital data into physical matter, there's usually a compromise when it comes to biology. Scientific images often need simplifying before printing – but even a basic model of a patient’s bone, for example, is enough to guide a surgical operation. Here, though, a new technique converts scientific data into voxels – virtual 3D 'blocks' that the printer can understand. Thousands of bundles of neurons inside a human brain are printed in multi-coloured transparent resin, each colour highlighting the exact bends and twists spotted by diffusion MRI in real life. Picking up and holding experimental results could provide vital insights for surgeons and scientists, and perhaps an attractive paperweight.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.