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Digital Pathology

Yi Zhang

In the traditional pathology, trained pathologists examine objects or tissues under a microscope to see if there is any problem, such as cancer. The tissues are often contained by a glass slide and may be stained to highlights the structure. Very often, the slide has to be packaged and shipped to another office where a specialist will examine the slide under a microscope again. It takes days or weeks to get the final results and the handlings are lengthy and costly. Human errors sometimes happen during the process and affects the authenticity of the outcomes.

Here is where digital pathology comes in. It involves the capturing, managing, sharing and analyzing glass slides in a digital format, enabled by new information technologies. The glass slide is scanned under a digital microscope, from which the high resolution images are acquired and stored. The images can be sent to specialists at other locations digitally and analyzed on a large screen. With the help of the professional pathology software, the analysis, such as counting the number of cells, can be done easily with the image processing and pattern recognition. It greatly reduced the need of shipping, handling and repeating inspections. The digital pathology is being adopted gradually in the area of primary diagnosis, consultation, researches and medical educations.

A new momentum is gained from the recent advance of artificial intelligence (AI). The computation power and machine learning algorithm help the digital pathology go from “digital” to “smart”. It can scan a large number of slides in a short time and select the regions of interest or suspicious areas for further analysis. The algorithm will help the specialist to compare and interpret the images much more efficiently and accurately. This is a booming new area and it will greatly reshape the the digital pathology!

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