applied science

LB + EA + ML = Your Life Saved From Cancer

Got your attention with that last bit didn’t I?

But what about the formula terms?

LB = Liquid Biopsy = no snipping bits off or out, just a simple blood sample.

EA = Epigenetic Alterations = things Cancer does to the Epigenome which is the molecular sheath around the DNA double helix.

ML = Machine Learning = a variant on AI where the machine is trained to look for EAs in LBs. Here are some links on what is Machine Learning and how does that work in Medicine?

Why does this equal Your life saved from Cancer?

What is the message the medical community drums into you again and again? Get tested because early detection increases your chances of survival immensely.

But what does getting tested entail? Biopsies. Tissue samples. Inspected by human beings with a success rate that varies widely depending on . . . the tissue sampling technique used. In this National Center for Biotechnology Information PubMed article “A comparison of fine-needle aspiration, core biopsy, and surgical biopsy in the diagnosis of extremity soft tissue masses” the accuracy runs from over 70% down to 33%

Different biopsy techniques are needed for collecting tissue samples from various places within, or upon, the body. And, for the most part, those samples are analysed by humans using their eyes and brains. And humans are prone to making mistakes. And from the results in the study above it looks like the smaller the sample the lower the accuracy.

But the technique I refer to in the title works differently . . . far differently.

As explained in this Science Daily article “A new approach to detecting cancer earlier from blood tests” the analysis is done by machines. And they aren’t looking for cancer cells directly; they are looking for 
epigenetic alterations in DNA fragments floating in the plasma of the blood sample.
By profiling epigenetic alterations as ‘classifiers’, machine learning can learn to detect signs of many many cancers far before any signs ever show up.

Of course this is still ‘in the lab’ and it might be a few years before it makes it out to testing labs everywhere. But this lab tool has successfully identified
cancer from hundreds of samples and can tell which kind of cancer and where it’s likely occurring within the body. From a blood test.

If you’re in your 30s now you’ve got a couple of decades before the scary 50s when many cancers take people out. And by then novel techniques like this will bring extremely early and economical detection into reality. And that cancer that took out older relatives in your family might not do the same to you and yours.

applied science xcience

Hacking Information Processing Problems In Human Brains

A long while ago I remember being introduced to the idea that we do not sense the world directly because we actually experience the results of sensory data being turned into information.

The cells in the ear that turn mechanical vibration into electrical signals are just the beginning of a chain of circuits of neurological processing steps that turn those signals into what we perceive as stereophonic sounds. Sounds are what those neuro circuits create for us.

Similarly the signals from cells in your eyes’ retina that turn light and colour into  electricity and chemistry aren’t vision – there is more processing going on before we get the ‘visuals’ that we think we see with our eyes.

And when something goes wrong with that processing we get strange effects. Dyslexics see some things, letter shapes, differently from the rest of us. Synesthesia  causes people to taste colours and see sounds.

Recent research shows that tinnitus may be a product of altered processing that might be amenable to repair. Now I read about how chronic pain may also be approached in the same way.

“researchers at the UNC School of Medicine showed they could target one brain region with a weak alternating current of electricity, enhance the naturally occurring brain rhythms of that region, and significantly decrease symptoms associated with chronic lower back pain”

Makes me wonder what other processing alterations could be done to repair or even enhance the basic human brain / mind system. That it can have an effect is pretty much recognized by now as this Reuters article “Do-it-yourself brain stimulation has hidden risks” shows.