Virtual Microscope Bringing Diagnosis To The Internet

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

Researching medical information is getting faster and more efficient. The virtual microscope promises to speed up everything from research to diagnosis.

For centuries, pathologists have looked through microscopes to study various tissues and diseases. It's been tedious work for researchers like Dr. Scott Jewell of Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital.

It often required trips through dusty rows of stored specimens, and if another doctor in another town wanted to see them, it meant sending these precious glass slides through the mail. "They can be broken or lost, and then we've lost original material."

But now those days are virtually over, thanks to the high-powered, high-tech virtual microscope. It takes digital images, much like your digital camera at home, only this takes them at 10,000 times the size. "Which allows a pathologist to basically look at the tissue like they do under the microscope, to be able to go from a macroview to a very microview of the tissue," explains Dr. Jewel.

And best of all, that information is stored on a computer, and using the internet, doctors could access the information from almost anywhere in the world. For pathologists, that makes seeing and sharing information much easier, and for patients it could make diagnosis much faster. Cancer patients for example, could get a second opinion in a matter of minutes, not days. And someday world-class doctors could help diagnose patients in remote areas without ever leaving home.

Dave Romer says, "The technician would create the slide, scan the slide and then make the slide available on the network, and it would then be available across time zones."

So after spending more than 400 years in labs, peering through those tiny lenses into a microscopic world, scientists can now see the bigger picture virtually whenever and wherever they want.

Right now the virtual microscope is used mainly in research and in teaching medical students. As the scanner becomes even more advanced, it's expected to become a primary tool in diagnosing disease.

For more information click here, or go to and click on "Cancer News at the James" or call the James line at 800-293-5066.