From Dogs To Ultra High Tech Diagnosis


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Today I came across two items on the Internet that both talk of new methods of health diagnosis but sit at opposite ends of the technology spectrum.

Firstly I just watched the TED Talk by Anders Ynnerman on Visualizing the medical data explosion. You can watch it below. In the talk Anders Ynnerman talks about the advancements in image analysis that are required to interpret and analyse the data received from modern scanners. The level of detail that scanners can achieve is truly amazing.

Today the BBC Health pages reported another new story about the diagnosis of colon cancer. It seems that some dogs can be trained to sniff out the early sings of colon cancer, either by analysing breath or faeces.

“The researchers at Kyushu University used Marine, an eight-year-old black Labrador. She was asked to pick from five samples, one of which was from a cancer patient and four from healthy people.
In the breath tests she picked out the cancer sample 33 out of 36 times. She was even more successful with the stool samples, finding 37 out of 38 cancers.” Source: BBC Health
Medical advancements seem to be coming from all angles. Admittedly, using trained dogs is not really a practical way to diagnose conditions, however, if a dog can sniff out the early signs of colon cancer then maybe science can one day also create a tool that can mimic a dog’s highly sensitive and well trained nose.
Nell Barrie from Cancer Research UK, told the BBC:
“Although some dogs seem to be able to smell cancer in certain situations, we’re still a long way from understanding exactly what they are detecting and this small study in one dog doesn’t give us any new clues. It would be extremely difficult to use dogs as part of routine testing for cancer, and that’s why further research in this area is concentrating on finding out more about the molecules given out by tumours, to see if they could be detected in other ways.”

Visualizing The Medical Data Explosion

Note, some of the graphics in this video show real autopsies which some viewers may find a little disturbing.


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