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Digital Hearts Stored For Big Data Research

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Doctors can access 1,600 digital hearts for research as big data cross into medical environment

Medical professionals in London can now access digital copies of thousands of human hearts to help the development of new treatments.

The development comes after it was revealed that 1,600 beating human hearts have been stored in digital form, as big data transitions into the medical sphere.

Beating Hearts

The reason for storing so many images of the human heart is that it will help doctors develop new treatments by comparing the hearts and the patients’ genes, according to the BBC.

big dataResearchers and scientists at the Medical Research Council’s Clinical Sciences Centre at Hammersmith Hospital are reportedly scanning detailed 3D videos of the hearts of 1,600 patients and collecting genetic information from each volunteer.

This detailed information on so many patients could prove very useful to the medical community, because previously during normal clinical trials, relatively small amounts of health information was collected from patients over the course of several years.

“There is a really complicated relationship between people’s genes and heart disease, and we are still trying to unravel what that is,” Dr Declan O’Regan of the Medical Research Council reportedly said. “But by getting really clear 3D pictures of the heart we hope to be able to get a much better understanding of the cause and effect of heart disease and give the right patients the right treatment at the right time.”

It is hoped that storing so much data on the human heart will allow researchers to compare the hearts, and see what the common factors are that lead to illnesses.

“There are often subtle signs of early disease that are really difficult to pick up even if you know what to look for,” Dr O’Regan said. “A computer is very sensitive to picking up subtle signs of a disease before they become a problem.”

Big Data

Big data has been used in many businesses in recent years. But the falling cost of storage, coupled with improving analytics has allowed big data to expand its reach into new sectors, including now medical research.

Last August, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announced a partnership with Intel which saw the chipmaker provide Big Data tools to advance the research into this disease.

IBM also announced last year that it had teamed up with OhioHealth to tap big data to help prevent infections in US hospitals.

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