Astropath-Hopkins' Astronomer & Pathologist Combine Tools For Another Approach To Resolve Cancer

The Economist April 24th 2021 pp69|Science & Technology|Cancer research|”An inward observatory” “How to map tumours using the techniques of astronomy”

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Image see Image of tumor cell by immunohistology for known tumor biomarkers PD-L1, PD-1, CD8, FoxP3, CD163, Sox10/S100.

Summary by 2244

Researchers from Johns Hopkins, Alexander Szalay (Astronomer) and Janis Taube (Pathologist) have formed a unique cross collaboration aimed at mapping the protein phenotype of cancer cells using classical immunofluorescence (IF) (IF-a biomedical method) with an image analysis technology successfully used to interpret nearly 1 billion images of astronomical objects. The method dubbed Astropath uses “specialized microscopes…[that] capture images of broad slices of tumours…[which are then] subjected to data-analysis techniques” from Szalay’s work. Szalay’s method converts the “arrival of photons of light on a charge-coupled device.” These photons are coverted to “a representation of reality by winnowing out the noise and determining, from what remains, what sorts of objects the telescope is looking at and how far away they are.” Taube’s IF uses specific reagent antibodies that target known proteins creating immunohistochemical images (See image above). Combining the methods “permits the distribution of these protein throughout a tumour to be mapped cell by cell.” Astropath currently can analyzed 20-30 proteins simultaneously and the goal is to analyze “hundreds of individual tumours of more than 20 different types, enabling comparisons to be made both within and between types." Using this approach Traube hopes to identify key proteins from which simpler tests can detect and monitor response to therapy from a simple blood specimen. “The project’s wider aim, though, is to make the results [from the image analysis] available to the world as a cancer atlas in a format similar to Google maps.”

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