More than 800 pathologists experienced a unique, large-scale virtual microscopy slide seminar on the internet during the 21st European Congress of Pathology, held in Istanbul between 8-13 September. It was the first time that a microscopy slide set from a major pathology conference was made viewable on the web. The seminar was arranged by the Biomedical Informatics Research Group from the University of Helsinki.
The 17 slide seminars included breast pathology, dermatopathology, gastrointestinal pathology, hematopathology, neuropathology and uropathology. The originals of the slides were on ordinary microscopy glass. A ‘virtual slide’ digitised at a thousand-fold magnification can hold more than 60 gigabytes of data. More than 160 specimens were digitised in this way for use at the conference. Handling such large amounts of data was made possible because of efficient compression techniques and a viewing system adopted from the satellite imaging industry. “Viewing of the samples very much resembles the use of Google Earth and puts only modest requirements on the pathologist’s computer,” said Dr Mikael Lundin, who was responsible for the project’s technical development - WebMicroscope.
|The conference used cutting edge technology
“To our knowledge, this is the first time that the complete microscopy slide set of a major international pathology conference has been digitised and made available on the web for the participants, and as such is a milestone in virtual miscoscopy and pathology,” said Dr Lundin.
All the virtual slides were copied to five mirror servers in Europe, which allowed pathologists to view the samples from the server that has the best connection speed. “The network of servers also marks the foundation of a novel European Virtual Microscopy Network,” said Dr Lundin. “By joining the network, a department can ensure an excellent connection speed and access to common educational material within the pathology community of Europe.”
Some of the microscopy samples were extremely rare and were collected into a special section and called ‘Once in a Pathologist’s Lifetime’. Diagnoses of the cases discussed at the conference are to be published on the internet. The seminar slides will also be available to the public to be used as an educational tool.
The new technology used at the conference is the result of a joint research and development project between the Biomedical Informatics Research Group, headed by Johan Lundin at the University of Helsinki, and Professor Jorma Isola, one of the pioneers of virtual microscopy, who is from the Institute of Medical Technology at the University of Tampere in Finland.
The conference programme included keynote lectures, symposia, slide seminars, short courses and pre-congress scientific activities. There were reviews of state- of-the-art practices and a look into the future of the discipline. Pathology is a fast moving science and the conference responded to this by covering many new and challenging aspects of clinical and research pathology.