Mint Labs has developed an online platform that analyses and synthesises sets of two-dimensional MRI scans in order to enable physicians to visualise the brain in 3D, giving them a 360° view plus the means to manipulate the image intuitively.
It goes without saying that brain surgery requires meticulous knowledge of the configuration of the brain. At the moment however, even the most advanced technology only provides two-dimensional MRI scans to help visualise a patient’s brain before a surgical operation. So it sometimes happens that damage is done to the brain because the surgeon could not see precisely where a tumour was located. Barcelona-based startup Mint Labs, a finalist at the EU E-Health SME Competition staged during the World of Health IT (WoHIT 2014) conference that took place in the French city of Nice on 2-4 April, has been trying to solve this problem and has developed a platform which uses advanced image analysis algorithms to create complex 3D maps of the patient's brain.
“Google Maps for the brain”
The goal pursued by Mint Labs is to help medical practitioners visualise the brain more accurately so that they can save time and analyse information more effectively before an operation. “Before starting to operate on a patient’s brain, a neurosurgeon will be able to locate the tumour and see what’s going on around it,” explains Mint Labs CEO Paulo Rodrigues. The company’s cloud-based platform is similar to Dropbox. All you have to do is drag and drop a set of two-dimensional MRI scans on to the server, and then complex algorithms will be used to analyse the images and create a 3D map of the brain – “like Google Maps for the brain,” says the company. The main users of Mint Labs’ visualisation and image manipulation software are researchers working on brain imagery and medical practitioners wanting to obtain a better understanding of the brain and brain diseases.
Manipulation in 3D using Leap Motion technology
The Spanish startup aims to create a range of applications which will meet the needs of experts dealing with the brain. The first application enables intuitive interaction with 3D imaging using Leap Motion technology (Editor’s note: an accessory with an interface that allows you to control a computer just by gesturing with your hands and fingers). The device enables surgeons to manipulate the 3D brain map at will and to obtain a 360° view of the brain. “It’s far more natural for physicians, particularly surgeons, to interact with an image using their hands. Having explained the process to a number of people we realised that the surgeons had intuitively understood the technology, and really liked it,” Rodrigues points out. The company, which was set up a year ago, is currently seeking to raise funds and is planning to officially launch its platform at the end of April. Meanwhile brain imaging remains a cutting-edge field and several projects of this kind are still at the research stage. Notable progress has recently been made with the BigBrain project, part of the EU Human Brain Project, which is largely funded by the European Union. BigBrain is a freely accessible high-resolution 3D digital atlas of the human brain, released in June 2013. The BigBrain developers claim that their atlas, with its record brain imaging spatial resolution of 20 micrometres (20 µm), sets the benchmark in the neurobiology field.