This month, CLP is publishing its first Tech Guide devoted to pathology systems, both traditional anatomic pathology systems as well as the emerging digital technologies. At present, digital pathology accounts for an estimated 1% of the glass slides read in the United States, but experts believe that the percentage of pathology conducted on digital imaging systems will grow substantially in the coming years. That is not meant to indicate, however, that the pathologist will become antiquated. Digital will no doubt become the mainstream option for some applications while others will require manual reads. As always in the clinical lab, economy, benefits to patients, and time of detection will play a role in determining which option is selected for different types of testing.
Accomplishing as much as possible with fewer resources remains a familiar topic in the clinical lab industry, and another of our features in this issue covers automation in a broader focus, including products for microbiology, histology, ELISA, and specimen processing. The potential impact that automation can have on the clinical lab is impressive and should give one pause if these technologies are not yet on your lab’s radar. For example, according to a recent report published by Kalorama Research, by implementing automation, a typical midsize lab can increase its volume by 20% and reduce turnaround times by 11% while saving staff salaries by time savings.
Playing out against this backdrop of increasing efficiencies and technological enhancements is the trend toward delivery of medicine that appears more personal than ever before possible from the patient’s point of view. Personalized medicine and pharmacogenetics are probably furthest along in warfarin dosing and oncology (matching tumor genotypes with molecular therapeutics), but new targeted therapeutics and companion diagnostics are moving forward for mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and depression and for metabolic disorders. And in addition to matching those already diagnosed with a disorder with the medication most likely to treat them effectively, the prospect of identifying individuals’ risks of disease and pointing them toward preventative strategies is moving closer to the horizon.
Last month, I referred to a rash of press releases describing the diagnostic use of genome sequencing, and another crossed my desk this morning. A paper in this month’s Lancet describes a study in which investigators evaluated the genome of a human subject as compared to several databases of disease-related gene variants. They successfully identified variants associated with diseases that appear in this individual’s family, indicating a proof of concept that this type of screening may be clinically relevant. Stay tuned to CLP for continued coverage as this technology develops.
Suzanne Clancy, PhD
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