ORIGINS OF PRENATAL IMAGERY, FROM ENDOSCOPES TO TELESCOPES

PO Box 219
Lake Forest, CA  92609-0219
949-206-0600
www.AbortionNO.org / info@cbrinfo.org

 

Gregg L. Cunningham, Executive Director

THE INTRICATE ORIGINS OF PRENATAL & GLOBAL IMAGERY, FROM ENDOSCOPES TO TELESCOPES

CBR’s embryo and fetus pictures are derived from many smaller images “stitched” together in much the same manner NASA uses to combine satellite photo “tiles” to form a large “mosaic.”

Embryo alive in the uterus 7 weeks following fertilization

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ENDOSCOPES

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s (CBR) human embryo and fetus imagery was initially derived by teams of physician researchers and clinicians employing endoscopy (and its subsets, embryoscopy and fetoscopy) to diagnose and treat prenatal disorders in utero. Endoscopes are medical imaging devices which permit the minimally invasive, high resolution observation of tissues inside the human body. At the distal end of these instruments is an objective lens designed for imaging. At the proximal end is an eyepiece, or sensor, which enables viewing.

HOW THEY WORK

These scopes generally consist of a tube which encloses a relay lens system (in rigid endoscopes) or a fiber bundle (for fiber-optic, or flexible, endoscopes) for illumination and to transmit an image from the objective lens inside the body to the proximal end outside.

Said differently, endoscopes use optical elements to direct light to the area sought to be illuminated and transmit the resulting image to the eye or detector. Rigid endoscopes generally offer superior resolution or magnification. But an endoscope’s objective lens is only approximately 1/5 of an inch in diameter, and this relatively small size substantially narrows the observer’s field of view (even with the addition of supplemental lenses such as “negative” or “prism” optics, etc.).

CONSTRAINTS

This limitation is further compounded by the need to use the scope in very confined spaces, with only short distances separating the objective lens from the anatomical structures being imaged. As a consequence, only a small segment of the embryo or fetus is observable at any point along the timeline of the scan. An endoscope’s construction must also accommodate frequently conflicting design considerations. The resulting compromises can involve not only fields of view, but depths of field (meaning thickness of the plane of focus) and image illumination and magnification, as well as distortion issues (i.e., stretched or compressed perspective), etc.

WORK-AROUNDS

So to depict a high quality, single image of the entire embryo or fetus, large numbers of smaller, more detailed pictures must be joined together in a manner suggestive of the process by which puzzle pieces are assembled to form a completed picture.

This technique employs a complex proprietary process which combines segmental scans to create a final composite image. The resulting picture is digitally adjusted to preserve each segment’s original color, resolution, contrast, illumination, etc. Technicians also correct for vignetting (image degradation or loss at the periphery of the frame).

Embryo alive in the uterus 8 weeks following fertilization

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MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING & ULTRASOUND

The British medical journal Lancet has published a prenatal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study involving the creation of 3D pictures to diagnose and treat congenital heart problems afflicting fetuses still in the uterus. The BBC reports that “A series of 2D pictures of the heart are taken from different angles using an MRI machine” to image the fetus.

The story explains that “Sophisticated computer software pieces the images together, adjusts for the beating of the heart and builds … [a] 3D image of the heart.” A pediatric cardiologist describes the resulting 3D images as “beautiful.”

This MRI research is part of a fetal diagnostic project which is also exploring scans using “four ultrasound probes at the same time – current scans use one – to get a more detailed picture.” This process produces a more wholistic composite image.

NASA COMPOSITE IMAGERY (SINGLE MEDIUM)

CBR’s imaging process is conceptually similar to the technologies used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to produce wide-area satellite images of the earth’s surface. Until the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory Satellite (DSOVR), which now orbits one million miles from earth, NASA had no camera positioned sufficiently far from earth to capture the globe’s entire sunlit surface in a single photograph. As previously noted, an endoscope’s objective lens must also operate too near to an embryo or fetus to permit its entire anatomy to be imaged in a single frame. This is the same constraint which complicates the capture of satellite imagery. Previous pictures of the earth could, therefore, only be created using digital stitching technology to make one large composite image from smaller segments. Scientists sometimes describe this final image (or “data set”) as a “mosaic,” comprised of many individual tiles.

HYBRID IMAGERY (MULTI-MEDIA)

A satellite picture can also be augmented by aerial photography (cameras on aircraft platforms) to improve resolution. Hybrid images of this sort can be created by superimposing black and white imagery (for still higher resolution) over color pictures of the same area, the latter to optimize chromic (color) fidelity.

The scientific press, for instance, reports that the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) “combined over one thousand precise, calibrated satellite images with other data from the continent’s surface to create a single picture of the entire continent.” The high magnification factor (think telephoto lenses which enlarge image objects) of each of these puzzle pieces yielded a composite picture depicting more detail than would have been visible in a single photo shot with a wide angle lens.

Fetus alive in the uterus 9 weeks following fertilization

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APPLICATIONS

NASA uses this mosaicking process to image celestial bodies of nearly every description. The Juno spacecraft made composite images of Jupiter; InSight of Mars; Cassini of Saturn; and Hubble of the Sombrero Galaxy.

So an exquisite depiction of a challenging subject, whether prohibitively small or large, near or far, may involve vastly more complexity than meets the eye of the casual observer.

WHERE DO WE GET THESE PICTURES?

We hope that question will be answered by our sources themselves.

We are trying to stimulate a better informed discussion of life before birth and we encourage our image sources to join that conversation – not least because they are immensely talented professionals with fascinating stories to tell.

But everyone has the right to decide for themselves whether and to what extent they wish to participate. We must respect those decisions.

WHAT CONSIDERATIONS MIGHT INFLUENCE PARTICIPATION DECISIONS?

Everyone will bring their own unique perspectives to those kinds of questions, but any treatment of prenatal development is obviously a conversation with at least implied relevance to elective abortion.

Science has, sadly, become so politicized that professionals in the sciences, medicine, education, etc., are increasingly cautious in their navigation of environments which can be treacherous for those whose views arguably deviate from orthodoxy.

“Climate science” is only one of the many disciplines which can be fraught with professional peril for those who espouse politically incorrect points of view. Professionals perceived to be even slightly outside the mainstream of “settled science” (an oxymoron in its own right) can be boycotted and encounter opposition in securing research grants, career promotions, paper publications, and even employment itself. Pressures of these sorts enforce group-think and stifle rigorous scientific inquiry.

Fetus alive in the uterus 10 weeks following fertilization

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TWO SETS OF RULES

Few if any observers would be particularly curious about the identities of the astrophysicists, astronomers or cartographers involved in a NASA satellite mapping project. From a political perspective, the contours of the lunar landscape are relatively inconsequential. But the appearance of the embryo and early fetus can have profound public policy implications. The public display of prenatal imagery can, therefore, seem provocative and even threatening to some.

An outdoor urban exhibit of a seven-week embryo photo sign has repeatedly attracted abortion rights protestors who systematically attempt to obscure these images with tarps and bed sheets.

A physician involved with the displays of this image was recently forced to retain legal counsel to defend against a formal complaint filed against him with the medical governing board in the Western country in which he practices medicine. His opposition to abortion was the stated basis for this ultimately unsuccessful attempt to secure his censure and the suspension or even revocation of his license. Assaults of this sort on expressive rights chill the willingness of other professionals to challenge the status quo.

THE END OF PUBLIC DISCOURSE

These and many other examples of censorship and persecution help explain the public reticence of professionals whose convictions are likely to be disfavored by powerful establishment elites.

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