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AI Doctor: US Department of Defense, Google making a smart microscope to detect cancer

The US Department of Defense is partnering up with Google to develop an AI-powered microscope that can detect cancerous cells, and how aggressive they are. They have already developed some prototypes which are being tested by oncologists across the US

The Department of Defense (DoD) has teamed up with Google to develop an Augmented Reality Microscope (ARM) that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to aid doctors in identifying different types of cancer.

This collaboration aims to provide support to doctors in smaller labs who are grappling with staffing shortages and a growing number of cases.

The ARM, which is powered by AI, underwent successful testing under the supervision of pathologist Dr Nadeem Zafar at a VA hospital in Seattle.

In a case involving prostate cancer, the ARM accurately pinpointed the specific area of the tumour that Dr Zafar believed to be more aggressive, confirming his diagnosis. Think of the ARM as an “arbitrator” that can offer a second opinion and enhance diagnostic accuracy.

Although the technology is still in its early stages, it has shown promise in initial research. Currently, there are 13 ARMs in existence, including one located at a Mitre facility near Washington, DC Researchers at Mitre are examining the challenges and vulnerabilities that pathologists encounter in a clinical setting.

The ARM has the appearance of a traditional microscope, complete with a large eyepiece and a tray for examining glass slides. It is connected to a computer tower that houses AI models. The ARM displays an outline of the cancerous area as a bright green line on both the pathologist’s eyepiece and a separate monitor.

Additionally, it generates a black-and-white heat map that indicates the severity of the cancer. The AI’s overlay on the microscope’s field of view is designed to seamlessly integrate into the workflow of pathologists.

It’s important to note that, unlike other initiatives to digitize pathology workflows, the ARM is not intended to replace digital pathology systems. Instead, it offers a cost-effective alternative for smaller healthcare systems that might find full digitization to be logistically and financially challenging.

The price tag for the ARM is approximately $90,000 to $100,000, making it a more affordable solution.

Dr Niels Olson, the chief medical officer of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) at the Department of Defense, has firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by pathologists.

The DIU, established in 2015, facilitates collaboration between the military and commercial entities to leverage cutting-edge technology. Dr Olson, who is also a pathologist, underscores the significance of the ARM in improving diagnostic accuracy and reducing potential errors.

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