Visualization in Biology

Although visualization in biology is a less pervasive technology today than it is in medicine, there is an increasing trend toward using powerful visualization tools in biology. It is important to note that many of the investigative research techniques in biology and medicine are pursuing similar paths. Imaging methods in medicine are increasingly becoming microscopic in scale, while imaging in biology requires addressing the functional properties of microscopic structures (Figs 17-20). These trends may lead to the development of new types of visualization systems that try to combine the scales. Image data in medicine are functionally rich, while image datasets in biology are large because of the very high optical resolution that can be achieved. One emerging concept is virtual microscopy visualization, where tiles of microscope images acquired from different areas on a specimen are seamlessly stitched to form a single large virtual image that can be zoomed and panned as if it was acquired with a very large field of view (Fig. 17). Combining these two types of data will challenge the current visualization techniques in terms of their current limitation in handling very large data sizes.

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