Researchers are using previously top-secret semiconductor technology to zoom through organs of the human body, down to the level of a single cell.
    
The imaging technology, developed by high-tech German optical and industrial measurement manufacturer Zeiss, was originally developed to scan silicon wafers for defects.
    
Researchers from the University of New South Wales are using the semiconductor technology to explore osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
    
Using Google algorithms, Professor Melissa Knothe Tate - an engineer and expert in cell biology and regenerative medicine - is able to zoom in and out from the scale of the whole joint down to the cellular level "just as you would with Google Maps," reducing to "a matter of weeks analyses that once took 25 years to complete."
    
Her team is also using cutting-edge microtome and MRI technology to examine how movement and weight bearing affects the movement of molecules within joints, exploring the relationship between blood, bone, lymphatics and muscle.
    
"For the first time we have the ability to go from the whole body down to how the cells are getting their nutrition and how this is all connected," said Tate.
    
"This could open the door to as yet unknown new therapies and preventions," she said.
    
Tate is the first to use the system in humans. She has forged a partnership with the US-based Cleveland Clinic, Brown and Stanford Universities, as well as Zeiss and Google to help crunch terabytes of data gathered from human hip studies.
    
Tate likened using the Zeiss technology in the hipbone to Google Maps' ability to zoom down from an Earth View to Street View.
    
"These are terabyte-sized data sets so the Google maps algorithms are helping us take this tremendous amount of information and use it effectively," she said.
    
Tate has presented several papers on her research into the human hip and osteoarthritis at the ongoing Orthopedic Research Society meeting in Las Vegas.