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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Erasmus University Medical Center Uses SGI Technology for Ground breaking Translational Medicine Research

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A Silicon Graphics Prism visualization system with 8 Intel(R) Itanium(R) 2processors, 8 ATI(R) FireGL(TM) graphics processors and 12GB of memory is usedto drive I-space. I-space enables researchers to explore vast amounts of genomics and proteomics data in an infinite 3D world. It also presents clinicians with new ways to investigate data sets from all kinds of 3D imaging modalities, including MRI and CT scans. I-space uses 8 Barco projectors forthe four walls: the floor, and the left, right and front. A 3D mouse uses four tracking devices -- one in each corner, enabling the system to recognize the relative position of the mouse -- and a virtual stick, which allows theuser to touch an object, push it on one side, zoom in/zoom out, and even slice the object. Stereoscopic glasses complete the immersive 3D experience. I-spacewas specifically created to allow doctors and researchers to discuss -- among different disciplines -- the data they are all seeing in the immersive visualization.

"We built I-space ourselves in collaboration with the folks from SGI andBarco," said Prof. Dr . Peter van der Spek, a geneticist by training who is also an engineer. "Barco has the projectors, but the Silicon Graphics Prismhas all the graphics pipes that superbly work together with Barco. It's cutting-edge technology and the power of Intel inside the Prism system is also very important for us, so we are very, very happy with the technology that drives I-space."

I-space at Erasmus Medical Center

At Erasmus MC, I-space is used for two reasons: research and clinical diagnostics. The clinical application deals with medical visualization in 3Dof different modalities such as MRI scans, CT scans, and ultrasound images. Doctors can walk through an MRI scan of a patient while discussing it with their colleagues. Multidisciplinary discussions are routine. For instance, fora patient with a brain tumor, the neurologist, with the neurosurgeon, are together in I-space and can decide what the best strategy is to remove the tumor from the brain. Or, for a person with a lung tumor, the thorax surgeonis there with the lung specialist, and they look to see where the tumor is positioned. Is it an area accessible to the thorax surgeon, and how can hemost optimally approach the tumor? Are there large blood vessels going through the tumor? Is the tumor close to the heart? All of this has to be taken intoaccount when removing a tumor.

Additional clinical applications include: -- Gynecology and Obstetrics. Children can be monitored during fetal development. En utero, Erasmus takes ultrasound images and projects them in 3D in I-space, where the complete fetus can be examined from all possible angles. Doctors monitor the shape of the face -- Is there a cleft in the face? A cleft in the lip? -- and can actually count to make sure there are five fingers on each hand and five toes developing on each foot. -- Cardiac Infarction. If heart contractions are not occurring optimally due to temporary lack of oxygen -- cardiac infarction -- doctors can examine live, beating hearts within I-space to see which part of the heart is actually paralyzed due to what's known in medical shorthand as "infarc." -- Training doctors in 3D. To see where the particular organs are positioned in the body, in 3D, is an educational application of the I-space.

"We use the I-space for very different reasons," said Prof. Prof . Dr. vander Spek. "We render the images, scan the images, into the I-space with the Silicon Graphics computer. We stack the images on top of each other and then we project them. We can do all kinds of very sharp visualizations, which in turn allow us to do very precise measurements on the MRI scans, on CT scans oron ultrasound images. We can zoom in really close, within the scan, to make it larger, to make it more obvious where to look for the clinician. This is avery multidisciplinary effort where we open up the IT box for the doctor and his colleagues, because we store the patients' images for the doctors andprocess and serve them. The very strong graphics capacity of the SGI equipment, including its software and the OpenGL graphics libraries, allows usto visualize, really, life in 3D."

Translational Medicine

The research application of I-space with the Silicon Graphics system deals with genomics data mining and proteomics data mining for translationalmedicine. At Erasmus MC, a 32-processor SGI(R) Origin(R) 3800 server runs anOracle database with clinical and molecular data. The configuration allows the researchers to actually link and integrate the data as well as visualize it ina very efficient manner. Based on the now-occurring convergence of molecularimaging and genomics, translational medicine couples knowledge from patients'data with other patients, in a vast database, aimed at personalized treatment of diseases. The two different fields of molecular imaging and genomics require the imaging of the patient scan with the molecular aspects, coupled with the use of genomic strategies, to come up with to novel biomarkers.


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