In a field where highly trained professionals interact on a daily basis with an ever-changing array of innovative technologies, new and useful ideas seem to be around every corner. From basic medical researchers working to discover and define the utility of new disease biomarkers, to the complex interplay of coordinated technical fields needed to develop and launch a new diagnostic analyzer, the clinical laboratory community is highly attuned to the importance of technology exploration for improving their performance—and, in turn, advancing patient care.
We at CLP are fortunate to hear about many such new ideas early in their genesis, often while the technologies are still undergoing proof-of-concept or validation testing, or while clinical studies are under way. And along the way, we often learn a great deal about where the future of laboratory technologies is headed. Consider just a few deidentified summaries from organizations that have proposed to contribute content for future issues of the magazine.
Two recent developments in technology are having a significant impact on the preexamination (preanalytical) phase of laboratory testing. They both solve problems we’ve always thought we’d just have to live with. One is the concept of ‘initial specimen diversion’ when drawing blood cultures. . . . The other is a device that is proving to be a viable alternative to venipunctures for patients undergoing intravenous therapies.
Phlebotomists consider the application of a heat pack over a target vessel to be an effective way to dilate vessels and improve first stick success. But a new device has been found to improve vein dilation from 36% to 50%, with the dilatory effect lasting more than two times longer than with a heat pack, giving phlebotomists valuable extra time to locate, assess, and access the vessel.
A new approach aims to understand tumor heterogeneity in classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma, starting from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples, and enabling genome-wide genetic analysis at the single-cell level. In the future, such an approach could be used to help select individualized therapies for patients with these cancers.
The same attributes of liquid biopsies that make them useful for cancer diagnosis also make them an effective option for monitoring patients to predict and determine their response to therapy. By monitoring patients’ circulating tumor DNA levels using liquid biopsies, their therapy can be optimized or adjusted at the first sign of resistance or failure. This benefit of liquid biopsies is still under active investigation.
Pathology is ripe for disruption, due to both the coming shortage of pathologists, and an expected increase in the number of biopsies. New approaches are making use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and machine vision to improve the tools available for the analysis of breast, gastrointestinal, and prostate cancer biopsies.
We look forward to hearing more about all of these technologies-in-development, and we welcome members of the laboratory community to contribute their own stories as well. Sharing the news about such advances is an important means of keeping labs up to date on the rapid developments in this field—and ultimately contributing to the goal of improving patient care.
Chief Editor, CLP
Featured image: Photo by Sergey Khakimullin courtesy Dreamstime (ID 73073094).