November 20th, 2017

To Your Health: New tech could reduce health costs for small centres


By Gillian Slade on June 12, 2017.

At the moment most of us would feel a little strange about having a computer interpret our laboratory tests and make a diagnosis. We have placed our confidence in highly educated pathologists who determine what the laboratory sample reveals. There have been instances where that was not 100 per cent accurate — all of the time — but getting it right can be counted on most of the time.

Artificial intelligence may seem like an idea from space but in Canada there is significant research that may see this happen sooner than we would think. Artificial intelligence has been taken to a new level with computers able to sift through tons of information and come up with an answer/decision and maybe even a diagnosis in the future.

The University of Waterloo is advancing microscope imaging technology that could change how we diagnose a disease and reduce costs as well.

“In medicine, we know that pathology is the gold standard in helping to analyze and diagnose patients, but that standard is difficult to come by in areas that can’t afford it,” said Alexander Wong an associate professor of engineering at the University of Waterloo and Canada research chair in medical imaging. “This technology has the potential to make pathology labs more affordable for communities who currently don’t have access to conventional equipment.”

Wong and Farnoud Kazemzadeh have been responsible for the development of a “new form of spectral light-fusion microscope for capturing lightfield images in full-colour,” they announced in a recent press release.

The large scale, full-colour, images makes it easier to analyze the behaviour and interaction of the organisms being observed. The microscope, which costs a few hundred dollars, and has no lens, uses “artificial intelligence and mathematical models of light” to develop large 3D images. The images are actually 100 times larger than 2D images typical of traditional microscopes.

“Currently, the technology required to operate a pathology lab is quite expensive and is largely restricted to places such as Europe and North America, which can afford them,” said Kazemzadeh, adjunct professor of systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo. “It would be interesting to see what a more affordable mobile pathology lab could achieve.”

Here’s to technology that will make advanced health care more affordable across the world and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her by email on call 403-528-8635.


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