One of the more common arguments for funding NASA consists of the numerous spinoffs that have been invented because of space research. The latest spinoff, according to Space.com, is a technique for imaging distant galaxies and characterizing them that may have some application for detecting biomarkers of lung cancer.
Using machine-learning algorithms, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory can discover similarities between distant galaxies and other stellar formations. Now, JPL is partnering with the National Cancer Institute to analyze chemical and genetic biomarkers that denote the presence of cancer in human tissue.
The reason that this research is important is that, before now, no standard models existed as to what these biomarkers were. Now hospitals and clinics have a tool to detect those indications of early-stage cancer based on a patient’s gender, age, ethnic background, and other characteristics. The descriptions of the biomarkers can be stored uniformly and used to detect early cancer around the world.
The new technique holds the promise to save many lives and to cut health care costs around the world. The axiom among medical professionals is that early detection is the key to surviving a diagnosis of cancer. Early detection means that the cancer can be attacked more easily, with a better chance of the patient going into remission. Patients can avoid a lot of expensive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy that takes place once cancer has metastasized, which may or may not work and, in many cases, causes debilitating side effects.
As important, the image analysis tool will likely have a host of other applications in biology and health care.
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