Taiwan – Histology is an essential basic science during the first two years of medical school for students at Kaohsiung Medical University (KMU). In the histology laboratory, students have to learn how to use a light microscope, trying to identify microscopic structures on glass tissue slides.
Because students and teachers are unable to observe the students’ slides at the same time, microscopic images are not shown in front of them to allow efficient mutual discussion. Medical students are often frustrated by morphological features and related terms of tissue slides owing to variation of microscopic structures.
Thanks to scientific advancement of a digital CCD camera, image processing techniques make virtual microscopy with high resolution images feasible. While a glass tissue slide is scanned via a slide scanner, a series of individual image tiles with same focal plane focusing is formed and merged to become a digital “virtual tissue slide”. Virtual tissue slides are stored in a database server and can be acquired on the internet with “virtual microscope software”.
In the classroom, students use personal computers installed with virtual microscopes, which demonstrate microscopic structure of tissues to team members, and the computer screen can display the focus image at any magnification. As the whole class has the same virtual slides, students can more easily discuss the same learning goals with each other. This virtual slide website can be used to study histology with computers, tablets and smartphones at any place via internet. After school, at any time, students can study and review histology online; self-learning is no longer limited to light microscopes and glass tissue slides in the school.