Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Splenic Views

3D virtual reality models reveal the human spleen's microcirculation is entirely open

18 November 2022

Splenic Views

Modern microscopy often aims to pull numbers out of life – quantifying details revealed by increasingly sophisticated techniques. But here researchers take a fresh approach to step inside human tissue and solve a mystery. First, they use pictures of human spleen tissue (left) to create a computer model (right), highlighting tiny blood vessels in blue and green. Next using virtual reality – they cast an expert eye on a strange quirk of the tissue. Normally blood flows through tissues in a closed loop, with tiny vessels called capillaries eventually connecting to veins. But the spleen has unusual microcirculation that is completely open (open ends highlighted in red) – blood cells flop out of capillaries into the tissue like children off a water slide, before later re-entering circulation around structures called sinuses (white structures, left). The team believe this flexibility helps splenic cells to weed out harmful chemicals and distribute useful ones for the blood to carry around the body.

Written by John Ankers

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