More physicians and researchers are using digital pathology to improve their biobanks. Here’s why.
The search is on to find 1 million people who will give permission for their genomes to be sequenced. These will be analyzed along with their medical records and their blood samples. The result will be a biobank of patient data that will help give insights into chronic diseases.
The “All of Us” research project has approved funding of $1.455 billion dollars over ten years. Biobanks are a serious aspect of health and medical research.
Digital pathology has an important part to play in improving biobanks. Read on to learn more.
What is a Biobank?
A biobank is a collection of biological material samples. They are collected and cataloged in the biobank. The purpose of the biobank is as a resource for scientific or medical research.
Typically, the material is human. It can include blood, organ tissue, saliva, urine, skin cells, and other biological material. These materials are preserved cryogenically or using formalin-fixed paraffin-embedding.
What is Digital Pathology?
Digital pathology is the collection of samples of biological material using high-resolution imagery. These images are then provided to a pathologist working remotely. They then use the images to support a diagnosis of a disease or do research.
Improving Biobank Quality Assurance
One of the challenges faced by biobanks is the preservation of samples. Storage facilities range from small refrigerators up to warehouses. An institution maintaining a biobank has to manage the physical storage facility as well as cataloging, search and retrieval processes.
Digital pathology provides an alternative to physical biological material storage. Digitized whole slide imaging technology means glass slides can be stored as computer files. The image can be searched and viewed on a computer screen.
Image capture is high resolution and includes digital microscopy. There is no longer a concern about the preservation of a physical biological sample. Data security and back up procedures take the place of cryogenics.
Sharing Biobank Samples
The reason a biobank exists is to provide material for research. Giving researchers access to samples is problematic. Searching a catalog may be simple but then providing access to the physical sample requires care if it is to be preserved.
Digital imagery is shared. It is simply a matter of having the appropriate hardware and software to search and view the image. Access to the image can be from anywhere including remotely.
Searching and Cataloging
Digital pathology provides images that are stored as computer files. These can be stored, searched and retrieved like any digital content. This makes access to the material easy to manage.
The Future is Digital
Holding the samples in the form of a digital image opens up opportunities for analysis of the images directly. Analysis tools can provide measurements from the images. Pattern recognition and other search tools can help classify or even carry out some diagnostics.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers the prospect of even more functionality. Intelligent searches and even learned diagnostics are likely developments. The future of research is digital.
Interested in learning more about digital pathology? Contact us today!