Groundbreaking new research will allow instant cancer diagnosis

cancer patient with consultant

A research project led by the University’s School of Digital Media Technology (DMT) has shown how data sonification (converting data to audio signals rather than visuals) using a laser device can improve techniques in stem cell analysis, opening up new possibilities for GPs to make instant cancer diagnoses.

Dr Ryan Stables of DMT collaborated with the University of Central Lancashire and GEANT, (a pan-European research and education network) on a preliminary study which converted stem cell data into sounds rather than visual data such as graphs, similar to the function of a metal detector. Ryan explains that “it allows you to identify the characteristics of cancer in real-time, which we hope could have life-changing implications for patients through the development of better diagnostic tools.”

At the moment, waiting times for cancer tests are at a six year high. The testing itself is often invasive and can involve taking a biopsy, sending it to a lab and awaiting results, which can take up to six weeks. Current methods of stem cell analysis involve computational pattern analysis, which is very time consuming. By classifying data into audio signals instead, it is easier to differentiate between healthy and cancerous cells and the process is much quicker.

This non-invasive system is still in the early stages of development; the preliminary study was launched at the 20th International Conference on Audio Display. The team are currently developing the research further by working on new types of tissue data to treat a wider range of physical diseases, and they are also recruiting a PhD student for the project.

The research has so far been featured in the national press and on Sky News. 

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