By Nancy Parrish, Staff Writer; photos by Richard Frederickson, Staff Photographer
Scientists who attended the 2015 NCI Intramural Scientific Investigators Retreat on Jan. 13 had a chance to discuss research results with other investigators from across the National Cancer Institute. And this year, they could also explore new possibilities for the future of their research.
Members of the Imaging and Visualization Group (IVG), Advanced Biomedical Computing Center (ABCC), Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, presented a way to conduct research in a virtual world. Attendees could try out the Oculus Rift device, a type of headset that enables an investigator to “step into” the research.
With the headset on, viewers saw a virtual rendering of a mouse model that had been scanned, segmented, and annotated so that various anatomical parts of the mouse were visible in three dimensions, according to Yanling Liu, Ph.D., IVG manager, ABCC.
The technology, which is under development at ABCC, will “allow researchers to interact with biology data in an immersive way…to go into structures and molecules, assemble or dissemble proteins…and perform measurements,” Liu said. “The overall goal is to create a complete cycle where biologists and scientists can quickly import physical materials into a virtual world, modify and study them without the limitation in the real world, and eventually output these virtual materials back into the real world for scientific discovery.”
Jim Cherry, Ph.D., scientific program director, Office of Scientific Operations, NCI at Frederick, had a chance to try it out and was impressed. “It was exciting to see the technology that is being developed in the Advanced Biomedical Computing Center at this year’s retreat,” he said. “The ability to interact with 3D objects and systems in the context of virtual reality will open up new possibilities for advancing cancer research.”
The retreat, held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., brought together 600 scientists and other attendees from across NCI to hear informative talks, share research results, exchange ideas, and explore possibilities for advancing cancer research.