Tiny the neurological samples but big the experience for both American and Japanese scientists on Thursday, June 25th, when an ISDN connection between the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) and the University in Osaka was established. At the UCSD site, researchers from the National Centre for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR), together with their visiting Japanese colleagues, used an advanced computer system, designed by the Osaka Research Centre for Ultra High Voltage Electron Microscopy (UVHEM) and Hitachi Ltd., to remotely control the largest and most performing transmission electron microscope in the world, situated in Osaka. This state-of-the-art device, displaying a capacity of 3 million volt, showed its precious value in the examination of neurological specimens, selected for the research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
The NCMIR team first has sent samples of spinal ganglia neurons from a frog, and neurons with spiny dendrites from a rat to the University in Osaka. This material is very suitable for microscopic investigation of the nerve cells because the researcher is able to detect which components are responsible for the distribution of specific proteins to certain cell regions. He also can determine the normal changes in the cell structure, that are related to memory and learning functions and distinguish them from cell structure alterations, caused by diseases. This kind of investigation contributes to the knowledge on the origin of human diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The Japanese scientists used real time satellite transmission to transfer video images of the specimens from the Osaka microscope to the UCSD site, where the NCMIR researchers introduced commands into the computer workstation to acquire magnification, focus and region of the sample images. In turn, these commands were passed to the computer in the Osaka centre, which controlled the microscope, by means of an ISDN connection. In the meanwhile, both research teams had oral contact during five hours through a teleconferencing system. They located typical characteristics in the samples via the remotely monitored video system. In Osaka, high quality digital stereo images and photographs of these features were taken and transmitted over the Web to the UCSD site. The photographs will serve for future 3D reconstruction by means of tomography.
At NCMIR, the Collaboratory for Microscopy and Digital Anatomy (CMDA) already designed a telemicroscopy system with a capacity of 400.000 volt in 1992. This electron microscope will feature in a reciprocal experiment, in which the Japanese colleagues in Osaka will remotely control the device at NCMIR. The National Institute of Health (NIH), the National Centre for Research Resources, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are funding this project. The NCMIR and UHVEM people aim at creating an international "resource of resources" solution, providing interconnectivity via high-speed networks between the two research centres. Scientists will have easy access to both microscopes from their own laboratories.
The first trans-Pacific telemicroscopy demonstration on June 25th was funded for the major part by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture. Currently, a very high speed Internet connection from UHVEM to NCMIR is being established by the San Diego Supercomputer Centre (SDSC) to substitute the ISDN and satellite links in future demonstrations. The Virtual Medical Worlds Magazine reported on the CMDA telemicroscopy project in the 1998 January issue. We also invite you to check in at the NCMIR site for more information on the CMDA programme and at the NPACI site for more news on the first test between UHVEM and NCMIR.