A new online portal enables more flexible and independent learning for medical students. Normally, students are provided with around 50 to 100 specimens at the start of the semesters. They have to work independently and depend on the infrastructure of the university for studying the specimens.
Dr. Thomas Wittenberg at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, stated that another disadvantage is that students who examine through the microscope see something different as each of the specimens are unique. University labs have specific opening hours and this restricts the time the student can spend on examining the specimens.
Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg and at the IIS, the Erlangen University Clinic have created a unique online platform for microscopy through the web. It is a supplement for actual microscopy, and cannot replace “real microscopy.” The research partners have created a digital image database of 200 specimens at a magnification of 40x. Using specific keywords and diagnostic findings, the students can study the specimens. The images can be viewed with seamless zooming or at specific magnifications of 5x, 10x, 20x, and 40x. The images also have an interactive labeling.
The specimen images have been made with a very high resolution so that even the minutest details can be examined. Such image files typically reach a size of 5 GB, which is not easily downloadable. To address this issue, the full images were divided into separate image tiles. So when a student examines a particular tile, only that tile at the desired resolution will be transmitted. Google Earth works in a similar fashion.
Students belonging to the University of Erlangen have been given password-protected access to the online database and have been utilizing the facility from the summer term of 2011. They have provided a positive feedback.
Solutions designed for automatic microscopic image data analysis and the web-based microscopy platform are to be presented at the MEDICA trade fair to be held in Düsseldorf from 16 – 19 November.