A biomedical engineer at UNSW Australia uses semiconductor technology to view organs of the human body, down to the level of a single cell. The imaging technology, developed by optical and industrial measurement manufacturer Zeiss, was originally created to scan silicon wafers for defects.

Using Google algorithms, Professor Melissa Knothe Tate – an engineer and expert in cell biology and regenerative medicine – zooms in and out from the scale of the whole joint down to the cellular level, “just as you would with Google Maps,” said Tate.

Microtome and MRI technology also examine how movement and weight bearing affect 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,” said Professor Knothe Tate. “This could open the door to as yet unknown new therapies and preventions.”

The microscopy allows seamless imaging of organs and tissues across length scales, centimeters at the whole-joint level down to nanometer-sized molecules.

Tate has partnered with the US-based Cleveland Clinic, Brown, and Stanford Universities, as well as Zeiss and Google to help analyze terabytes of data gathered from human hip studies.