April 19, 2017

Michigan Health Lab: Body’s microscopic environment, free for educators and researchers

When it comes to understanding the human body, seeing is believing; new website allows teachers and students anywhere to look through a “virtual microscope”

Virtual microscope image

A medical student in Michigan. A nursing student in Ghana. An anatomy professor in Brazil. A researcher in Australia. All need to learn ­— or teach — about the human body at the most basic level.

For all of them, nothing beats a microscope-level view of healthy organs, tissues and cells. That view sets the stage for learning how these structures change because of mutation, disease or the passage of time — and how to prevent, slow or stop those changes.

Until recently, only those with access to microscopes and libraries of glass slides, each with a tiny sample of preserved tissue, were able to study cells and tissues at the microscopic scale.

Now, students and teachers everywhere can see the human body in fine detail, thanks to “virtual microscopy,” which has opened the body’s secrets to a much wider audience of students and teachers.

The University of Michigan Medical School was one of the first places to use virtual microscopy for teaching students about normal tissue morphology, a field called histology.