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New solutions in scientific imaging and diagnostics are being augmented by high-definition three-chip or 3CCD digital technology, particularly in the world of microscopy. The wealth of color information provided in 3-chip, high-definition cameras offers a tremendous advantage in the amount of critical data that now can be seen and recognized, especially when compared with older, single-chip color-camera technology. In the hospital, pathologists are viewing cells and tissue with better contrast and more color accuracy than ever before, giving them a new advantage in their life-saving work. This article will discuss advances in the world of three-chip color imaging and report on the latest high-definition imaging systems for microscopy.
There are far fewer 3CCD camera manufacturers than there are single-chip suppliers in today's market because this technology is much more specialized and thus more expensive. Single-chip area scan cameras use a single sensor that is covered by a color filter with a fixed, repetitive pattern. To reconstruct a complete color image, interpolation is needed. The red, green and blue information is interpolated across several adjacent cells to determine the total color content of each individual cell, therefore providing less color accuracy than 3CCD (Figure 1). By contrast, three-chip cameras contain three separate image sensors and a prism that divides the incoming light rays into their red, green and blue components. Each individual chip then receives a single color at full resolution, therefore providing the best color accuracy available (Figure 2).
MICROSCOPY TECHNIQUES: THEN AND NOW
Prior to HD digital imaging, tumor boards, pathology rounds and teaching facilities used multi-head microscopes to allow groups of physicians or students to view microscope information simultaneously. For the past 10 years or so, conventional methods of group viewing, discussing and analyzing tissue slides and other specimens have been accomplished in three ways. One method is to connect a live, low-resolution camera, CRT TV or projector to a microscope.
This mode often produces poorer quality images due to camera, projector or display monitor limitations, particularly at low magnifications. Another technique is to view specimen slides through a multi-head microscope that a small handful of pathologists or doctors can look through—this method has limitations based on the finite number of actual observation tubes available. Currently, most pathologists have a microscope at their desk and many of them employ a specialized digital camera engineered for microscopy that can be mounted to the microscope. This allows the pathologist to capture "field of view" images that are stored and then can be exported into a PowerPoint presentation. The problem with this current method is that the images are previously captured and they are unable to view a live image. During a tumor board discussion, if the pathologists wish to view the specimen at a different magnification than what was previously captured, they are out of luck. Additionally, most pathologists and clinicians are extremely busy people who would prefer doing what they do best, which is diagnosing, rather than spending their time taking photos and creating PowerPoint presentations.
Sharing live pathology slide information now is possible and available at high resolution and at 30 frames per second. Presenting a live image of the specimen to the pathologist(s) offers an enormous advantage and the flexibility to view the specimen at various magnifications. This valuable and time-saving tool is due to recent advances in imaging technology, making it easier than ever for a group of clinicians and/or pathologists to view a live specimen simultaneously and at the highest possible image resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). Toshiba Imaging (Irvine, Calif.) and Olympus Canada (Markham, Ontario, Canada) recently developed an advanced digital imaging system for tumor boards, clinical rounds and the university classroom. The new Synergy-HD Imaging System pairs Toshiba's proprietary prism block 3CCD and high-def imaging technology with Olympus' microscopy expertise, resulting in an easy to use, extremely precise, microscopy system that can be viewed on a 42-inch or 47-inch LCD hi-def display. The high-contrast imagery is produced in real time at 30 fps and can be viewed from nearly any angle in the classroom or auditorium. The HD camera performs the necessary processing to recreate the advanced color fidelity and the extraordinary image detail that can only be achieved through high definition digital imaging quality.