CDI Miami | Friday May 1, 2015

“Google Maps” for the Human Body

New technology from German optical industrial manufacturer Zeiss, is expected to be the next game-changer for medicine.

According to Mekussa Knothe Tate, a professor from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia, the new technology has profound implications for those studying treatment methods in osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Using Google algorithms, Tate and her team are able to zoom into cells at a microscopic level, “just as you would with Google maps”, reducing to “a matter of weeks analyses that once took 25 years to complete.”

Tate’s team is utilizing new microtome and MRI technology to examine how movement and weight bearing affects the movement of molecules within joints, exploring the relationship between blood, bone, lymphatics and muscle.

“For the first time we have the ability to go from the whole body down to how the cells are getting their nutrition and how this is all connected,” explains Professor Tate. “This could open the door to as yet unknown new therapies and preventions.”

This would be the first time this system is used on humans. Professor Tate is currently pioneering partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, Brown and Stanford Universities, as well as Zeiss and Google to help crunch terabytes of data gathered from human hip studies.

“These are terabyte-sized data sets so the Google maps algorithms are helping us take this tremendous amount of information and use it effectively. They’re the traffic controllers, if you like.”

Harvard University is also studying similar research in partnership with Heidelberg in Germany to map neural pathways and connections in the brains of mice.

Studies are now being targeted between the molecular transport within different kinds of tissue such as cartilage and bone. Professor Tate has conducted research demonstrating the link between molecular transport through blood, muscle and bone, and disease status in osteoarthritic guinea pigs.

“Understanding the molecular signaling and traffic between tissues could unlock a range of treatments, including physical therapies and preventative exercise routines,” Professor Tate said.

“Advanced research instrumentation provides a technological platform to answer the hardest unanswered question in science, opening up avenues for fundamental discoveries, the implication of which may be currently unfathomable, yet which will ultimately pave the way to engineer better human health and quality of as we age,” Tate concluded.
Using previously top secret technology, Prof Melissa Knothe Tate and her team at UNSW Biomedical Engineering are zooming in and out of the human body right down to single cells, just as you would with Google maps. Starting with the knee joint, the researchers can figure out how cells behave and impact on conditions like osteoarthritis.