UCLA hopes to usher in digital dermatology with new AI application

The University of California Los Angeles developed an artificial intelligence technology designed to help clinicians and labs examine skin samples without performing a biopsy, according to a Nov. 18 report published in Light: Science & Applications.

Four things to know:

  1. With the tool, clinicians will no longer have to surgically remove a sample of skin and send it to a lab, according to the report. Instead, they are able to snap a photo of the lesion and the tool generates a detailed microscopic image of the skin.

  2. The technology was developed by researchers from UCLA's medical school and engineering school. It has been in development for more than three years. The technology has previously been applied only to microscopy slides with tissue acquired with a biopsy. UCLA is the first to use "virtual histology" (histology is the study of microscopic structures of tissues) to unbiopsied tissue, according to a Nov. 18 news release.

  3. "The current standard for diagnosing skin diseases, including skin cancer, relies on invasive biopsy and histopathological evaluation. For patients, this often leads to unnecessary biopsies and scars as well as multiple visits to doctors. It also can be costly for patients and the health care system," said Philip Scumpia, MD, assistant professor of dermatology and dermatopathology at UCLA's medical school and physician at West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Hospital.

  4. Future studies will determine if the digital approach to histologies can interface with whole-body imaging and EHRs, according to the release. The research team will also work to determine if the AI platform can work with other technologies to discern patterns and further aid in clinical diagnosis.

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