A Virtual Reality Look at a COVID-19 Patient's Lungs: No 'MD' Needed to Read These Scans

Tami Abdollah

Tami Abdollah was dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.

A Virtual Reality Look at a COVID-19 Patient's Lungs: No 'MD' Needed to Read These Scans

It's one thing to know a patient's lungs are infected with COVID-19. But it's an entirely different thing to see it through a virtual reality walk into those now damaged lungs.

The L.A.-based company Surgical Theater is using its high-tech VR platform, developed 10 years ago to allow surgeons to take an immersive look at patient imaging, to help doctors and patients get an in-depth look at the impact the novel coronavirus has on lungs, said Alon Zuckerman, the company's president and chief operating officer.


It is one of a slew of companies in Los Angeles and beyond that is working to help in the fight against COVID-19, in this case by giving medical staff and patients a closer look at the disease caused by the novel virus and a better view of the damage through virtual reality.

"There is such a stark contrast between the virus-infected abnormal lung and the more healthy, adjacent lung tissue," said Dr. Keith Mortman, chief of thoracic surgery at GW Hospital, on the hospital's podcast. "And it's such a contrast that you do not need an MD after your name to understand these images."

Surgical Theater first teamed up with George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., which was the first in the nation to use VR tech for thoracic cases four years ago to use its 360 degree view for surgical planning and patient education. Now, the hospital is using the same tech to assess COVID-19.

"This is something the general public can take a look at and really start to comprehend how severe the amount of damage this is causing the lung tissue," Mortman said. "The damage we're seeing is not isolated to any one part of the lung. This is severe damage to both lungs diffusely."

Dr. Mortman GWUH - COVID-19 Patient VR Flythrough 2www.youtube.com

Two ex-Israeli Air Force officers created the VR platform after their experience with flight simulation to help with mission planning.

The FDA-cleared tech has been used in the operating room to help support complex surgeries with its 3D technology, and has been used in 10,000 procedures including in hospitals at Stanford; the University of California, Los Angeles; at Hoag in Orange County; and in New York hospitals, including NYU and Mt. Sinai, among institutes across the nation, Zukerman said.

The company is working with existing hospitals to offer help in VR-alizing the CT scans of patient lungs to help assess the surge of COVID-19 cases.

Mortman, who is using the VR platform, said he's especially concerned with possibly enduring damage to lungs as a result of these infections.

"When that inflammation does not subside with time, then it becomes essentially scarring in the lungs, creating long-term damage," he said. "It could impact somebody's ability to breathe in the long term."

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sports trading cards
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Sports trading card platform Arena Club has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

Co-founded by CEO Brian Lee and Hall of Fame Yankees player Derek Jeter, Arena Club launched its digital showroom in September. Through the platform, sports fans can buy, sell, trade and display their card collections. Using computer vision and machine learning, Arena Club allows fans to grade and authenticate their cards, which can be stored in the company’s vault or delivered in protective “slabs.” Arena Club intends to use the new cash to expand these functions and scale its operations.

The new funding brings Arena Club’s total amount raised to $20 million. M13, defy.vc, Lightspeed Ventures, Elysian Park Ventures and BAM Ventures contributed to the round.

“Our team is thankful for the group of investors—led by M13, who see the bright future of the trading card hobby and our platform,” Lee said in a statement. “I have long admired M13 and the value they bring to early-stage startups.”

M13’s co-founder Courtney Reum, who formed the early-stage consumer technology venture firm in 2016 alongside his brother Carter Reum, will join Arena Club’s board. Reum has been eyeing the trading card space since 2020 when he began investing in what was once just a childhood hobby.

The sports trading card market surged in 2020 as fans turned to the hobby after the pandemic brought live events to a standstill. Since then, prices have come down, though demand remains high. And investors are still betting on trading card companies, with companies like Collectors bringing in $100 million earlier this year. Fanatics, which sells athletic collectibles and trading cards, reached a $31 billion valuation after raising $700 million earlier this week. On the blockchain, Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph lets athletes sell digital collectibles directly to fans.

As for Arena Club, the company is looking to cement itself as a digital card show.

“Providing users with a digital card show allows us to use our first-class technology to give collectors from all over the world the luxury of being able to get the full trading card show experience at their fingertips,” Jeter said in a statement.

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