Molecular Machines & Industries

Digital Pathology

What is Digital Pathology?

Digital Pathology is a sub-field of pathology which uses digital slides instead of live microscopy to evaluate tissue sections in research and in the clinics. Typically, in digital pathology workflows, the first steps comprise preparation and barcoding of tissue sections. The tissue sections will then be converted into digital slides using digital pathology slide scanners. Several of these steps can be fully automated and orchestrated in digital pathology systems. Depending on the specific interest and focus, the digital slides can then be viewed, shared, analyzed, managed, and archived on any computer connected to the network. Especially for the diagnosis of very difficult and complex cases, pathologists need to discuss the case, based on biopsies or other patient material processed into tissue sections, with other pathologists being experts on a certain organ or disease.

Digital Pathology now enables the pathologist to share the digital slides with one or more experts independent of their geographic localization. Therefore, a well-informed diagnosis validated by experts can be made in very short time leading to more effective treatment and saving lives.

What is the difference from Molecular Pathology?

Pathology in general evaluates tissue sections based on morphology, and based on specific staining technologies to detect the abundance and distribution of certain marker genes or mutations across the tissue sections to make a diagnosis. In Digital Pathology as well as Digital Histology, digital slides and software tools are used instead of tissue sections under the microscope.

In contrast, Molecular Pathology is interested to obtain comprehensive molecular information of a certain tissue area, such as genomic information on cancer mutations. Molecular Pathology can thus help to verify diagnoses and to refine treatment options.

Why is Digital Pathology becoming more and more important in research and diagnostics?

Digital Pathology is the pre-requisite to utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Pathology. Digital slides can be analyzed by digital pathology software algorithms which are trained to detect, mark and measure defined cell types or structures. AI is already changing the field of pathology as novel digital pathology software including dedicated digital pathology image analysis tools are currently being developed, tested and evaluated in world-wide case studies.

AI tools will be able to reliably identify and quantify malignant structures and therefore AI will help the pathologist to draw well-informed conclusions by obtaining objective and consistent data from the digital images. Thus, the digital pathology market size is increasing and novel digital pathology solutions, such as automated high-throughput digital pathology scanners, are being developed and fully integrated into digital pathology workflows.

How and where is Digital Pathology being applied currently?

Digital Pathology is currently applied in pathology labs who want to share their knowledge or obtain expertise on difficult cases, who want to evaluate digital images at any time and any place – at the desk, at home or even on vacation -, and who would like to archive digital slides without any loss of image quality due to non-optimal storage conditions and bleaching of stains. Moreover, pathologists are now also starting to work with AI software solutions for digital pathology to save hands-on time at the microscope and to make more profound diagnoses. Thus, the digital pathology market is currently growing and new applications will be developed.

How can the technology provided by MMI help me in my Digital Pathology workflow?

With the MMI CellScan, MMI offers the most flexible Whole Slide Imaging system. This digital slide scanner is microscopy-based and is therefore compatible with all objectives as well as with brightfield and fluorescence imaging modes. In addition, the images are saved as BigTIFF files and are compatible with all open format Slide Viewers. Therefore, the MMI CellScan can be integrated into existing digital pathology workflows.

MMI also offers their own Slide Viewer Software which is able to load large BigTIFF files instantaneously, to view the scanned images at the highest resolution, and which allows to mark and annotate target cells or areas. In addition, the MMI CellScan can be seamlessly integrated into the MMI CellCut Laser Microdissection platform to connect Digital and Molecular Pathology and to make the most from one tissue section.

Please follow the links find more information on the MMI CellScan and MMI CellCut, or contact us for any questions.

“We appreciate the resistant MMI product quality, the professional consulting, and the competent and quick service. MMI instruments are an important basis for our in-situ analysis in cellular tissue. Laser microdissection followed by gene expression analysis is complementary for further routine methods like conventional optical microscopy (fluorescence), in-situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry.

The MMI CellScan supports us in our daily work: this tool documents our tissue sections in high resolution and it fully integrates in our laser microdissection workflow. We especially appreciate that we can annotate directly in the image thus saving hands-on time at the instrument.”

Prof. Dr. med. Danny D. Jonigk FRCPath Pathological Institute
Hannover Medical School
Hanover, Germany

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