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Virtual Microscopy Core - Out From Under the Microscope

Advances in digital scanners and the use of high-resolution video screens in computers and mobile devices are revolutionizing the way we look at glass microscope slides. Virtual microscopy is doing for slides what e-books have done for printed books.

“This technology is replacing the need for people to use a microscope to view slides,” said Shadi Qasem, MD, past director of the department’s Virtual Microscopy Core (VMC), a virtual imaging lab that provides services across our institution as well as to external clients. “Physicians, researchers and students can now view slides wherever they have a computer or mobile device and an Internet connection.”

Virtual microscopy offers unprecedented slide-sharing possibilities, makes archives searchable, alleviates physical storage problems, and eliminates breakage or deterioration from aging.

State-of-the-Art Scanners

The VMC lab features two state-of-the-art scanners to convert slides into digital images. One handles high-volume projects, such as clinical trials with many subjects. It can scan 210 slides in 15 hours, unattended. The other scanner offers greater magnification and higher resolution to produce publication-quality images. The lab provides free viewing software, and both systems allow the addition of text, circles and arrows to create presentations faster and incorporate images into PowerPoint.

“People often say our images look like works of art,” said Brandi Bickford, the lab’s microscopist. “Virtual microscopy reveals natural beauty that the unaided eye cannot see.”

View a gallery of slides.

Benefits for Physicians, Researchers and Students

Creating the VMC was a collaborative effort by the Pathology Department and the School of Medicine, and both are benefitting. Surgeries and diagnostic tests generate hundreds of thousands of slides each year, and day-to-day clinical work constitutes 80 percent of the lab’s volume. As the virtual slide archive grows, professors gain valuable teaching aids, which they can search by diagnosis and share with all students simultaneously—without a lab full of microscopes.

For researchers, the VMC’s high-resolution equipment allows them to perform measurements and quantitative analysis more efficiently, and to capture images with the clarity, color and pixel size required by scientific journals.  Cells can also be grown on removable chambered slides, fixed and then cover-slipped.  The slides can be purchased from Sigma-Aldrich.

The VMC also serves clients outside the Medical Center, such as attorneys who rely on forensic pathology evidence in criminal and civil cases. Virtual microscopy ensures that all parties involved in these cases see the exact same evidence.

“We have equipment, software and trained technicians to provide the benefits of virtual microscopy at very reasonable costs,” Qasem said.

How to Request Scans of Your Slides

For more information, contact microscopist Brandi Bickford at 716-1568. You may also email the Virtual Microscopy Core.

Article courtesy of WFBMC Internal Communications

VMC Slides Gallery

Human kidney ECM scaffold,
Guiseppe Orlando, MD,
Transplant Surgery,
Regenerative Medicine
Mammary gland in mouse, Yong
Chen, PhD, professor, Cancer
Biology, and Janel Suburu, PhD
student, Cancer Biology
Mouse intestine, Vidula
Vachharajani, MD, associate
professor, Critical Care
Nanotubes inside a nucleus, Ravi
Singh, PhD, assistant professor,
Cancer Biology
Polarized soft tissue, Shadi
Qasem, MD, assistant professor, 
Pathology, and director, Virtual 
Microscopy Core
Tri-chrome kidney, Snezana
Petrovic, MD, assistant 
professor, Physiology and
NDP image of cells in chambered
coverglass, Kathryn Crowell, 
Research Trainee, John Jackson
PhD, Department of Regenerative
VSI 3 channel whole sectioned
mouse embryo, Olympus America


Quick Reference

Virtual Microscopy Core
Michael B. Cohen, MD

Tel: 336-716-5080


Microscopy Technicians:
Kristine Ali and Brandi Bickford

Tel: 336-716-1568

E-mail the VMCore at

Patricia Warren

Tel: 336-716-1520

Scanner available 24/7
Consultations by appointment
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