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Virtual microscopy: High resolution digital photomicrography as a tool for light microscopy simulation

Human Pathology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0046-8177(99)90126-0
  • Photomicrography
  • Video Microscopy
  • Digital Imaging
  • Telepathology
  • Biology
  • Education
  • Medicine


Abstract Recent advances in microcomputers and high resolution digital video cameras provide pathologists the opportunity to combine precision optics with digital imaging technology and develop new educational and research tools. We review recent advances in virtual microscopy and describe techniques for viewing digital images using a microcomputer-based workstation to simulate light microscopic examination, including scanning at low power to select features of interest and zooming to increase magnification. Hardware and software components necessary to acquire digital images of histological and cytological slides, and closely simulate their examination under a light microscope are discussed. The workstation is composed of a MicroLumina digital scanning camera (Leaf Systems, Southborough, MA), light microscope (Olympus Optical Co., Lake Success, NY), Pentium (Intel Corp., Santa Clara, CA) 166 MHz microcomputer configured with 64 megabytes of random access memory (RAM), a MGA Millenium Powerdesk graphics card (Matrox Graphics, Inc., Montreal, Canada) and Photoshop software (Adobe Systems Inc., San Jose, CA) running in a Windows 95 (Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA) environment. Images with spatial resolutions of up to 2700 × 3400 pixels in 36-bit color, can be displayed simultaneously as distinct images in a montage, or merged into a single composite image file to highlight significant features of a histological or cytological slide. These image files are saved in Joint Photographers Experts Group (JPEG) format using compression ratios of up to 80:1 without detectable visual degradation. The advantages and technical limitations of various workstation components are addressed and applications of this technology for pathology education, proficiency testing, telepathology, and database development are discussed.

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