This photomicrograph of a sliced rat beta cell has been processed with the modified NASA imaging technology. Insulin granules are the dark black spots surrounded by the white halo area. The colored borders around the granules are labels added to identify and classify them. (NASA/Tim McClanahan)
NASA image processing technology used to explore orbital images of Earth is being modified for use in diabetes research. A team from George Washington University (Washington, DC) and Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) modified the technology, which has increased the speed of the research. The team analyzed electron photomicrographs — images from an electron microscope — of beta cells from rats. Previously, the analysis of each electron micrograph took an assistant several hours to complete. Using NASA’s image processing technology, several dozen electron micrographs can be analyzed automatically overnight.

The original NASA technology is being used to classify image elements and identify different types of landforms, geology, and vegetation. It has also been adapted to identify biological structures — in this case, insulin granules — in electron photomicrographs. The team observed the number, size, and position of the insulin granules in the beta cell in response to glucose.

“NASA technology, combined with our modifications, has provided us with new tools for fighting diabetes,” said Murray Loew, director of the Biomedical Engineering Program and professor of engineering at George Washington University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

For more information, visit:

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.