Translating digital pathology


Meggan Czapiga, Ph.D

As little as five or six years ago, digital pathology within the realm of biologics development was just beginning to burgeon, with the intent of taking pathology beyond its traditional microscope applications.

Back then, we struggled with getting enough detail from our slides without risking resolution, getting that information quickly so that scientists could do their work and, perhaps even more importantly, taking subjective data interpretation out of the equation.

Today, the technology is nearly astronomical—and we’re just getting started.

In fact, what we’re looking at now is a galaxy of automated systems with design algorithms that give us the ability to look at multiple biomarkers and diseases, to mine and standardize data, to discern with precision what stands out among the mass, and—in the context of personalized healthcare—to determine where we can target potential therapies. Or, to extend the galactic metaphor, to find the twinkling star that outshines all others.

Anyone involved in science and medicine should be intrigued, but as a scientist using these technologies in our labs on a daily basis, the possibilities transcend intrigue. This ability to automate and digitally visualize all of the data contained within tissue samples—a new field called tissue phenomics—is real, practical and revolutionary. In part, this means we’re not relying just on genomic data for sources of variation. Instead, we can combine genomics and phenomics for a better, stronger, faster way to make decisions.

And, that moves us from basic science inquiry to a translational tool that takes us a step beyond visual scrutiny toward both quantitative and qualitative analysis and the ability to perform mechanism of action studies.

This is happening right now. But, we’re also looking at the potential for creating “smart” algorithms, built from tissue and biomarker databases that continually mine information and further standardize workflow. This will enhance the accuracy and quality of data and speed up our processes even more.

What it all comes down to in the field of digital pathology right now is limited only by our queries. If someone has the question, we have the technology to give him or her the answer.