Nov 17, 2014

Tissue Phenomics - A Novel Big Data Approach in Pathology

Dr. Gerd Binnig, Nobel Laureate and Chief Technology Officer, Definiens, Munich, Germany

Data mining techniques and big data approaches have the power to create knowledge that cannot be created otherwise. And while they are well established, only recently have people become aware of the impact these techniques and approaches have on their daily life. The main reason for this is the dramatic growth of data now available in digital form - a first prerequisite for data mining. A second prerequisite is that data need to be meaningful for data mining to be effective. In medicine, however, this condition represents a barrier difficult to overcome. Here the biggest data segment, the pixels in images, represent no value for data mining tools. Advanced image analysis is the way to meaningfully structure images and extract statistical data from relevant objects, regions, and textures for subsequent data mining procedures.

In particular the information contained in tissue slides is medically highly relevant. Tissue Phenomics extracts this data in a much more extensive manner than what can be done manually, enabling increased medical and scientific insight and ultimately improving the treatment of patients. Tissue Phenomics, however, is more than just data collection paired with data mining. It is a comprehensive approach that combines bottom up (systems biology) with top down (statistics and correlation) methods. To manage the combinatorial problem of how to collect data, hypotheses have to be created both ways and be validated statistically. Tissue Phenomics complements genomics, an already established big data approach. Genomics has the limitation that the effect of the gigantic molecular network on diseases is more complex and definitely not only controlled by genes. Tissue Phenomics is closer connected to the state of the patient and therefore has the potential to become within the next years the most relevant science to develop diagnostic and therapeutic methods.