UD interactive conference highlights diagnostic, research benefits of digital pathology

October 3, 2012 under CANR News

With researchers from throughout the world collaborating on projects, the need to share and analyze tissue specimens remotely in real-time is ever present. To preview technology which can help meet that need, the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Comparative Pathology Laboratory hosted “Introduction to Digital Pathology” demonstrations Sept. 6-7 at the Charles C. Allen Laboratory Conference Room.

Conference participants experienced digital pathology, or ePathology, technology firsthand through live demonstrations of slide scanning quantitative image analysis and real-time conferencing on virtual slides without a microscope.

Erin Brannick, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory and a veterinary pathologist, organized the conference with representatives from Aperio, a company specializing in digital pathology slide scanners, analysis software, and data management systems.

Digital pathology systems have many applications, and Brannick explained that during the sessions, participants were able to see how one Aperio system could meet the diverse needs of researchers, diagnosticians in human and veterinary medicine, educators and industry partners.

Multiple research application sessions offered individual researchers the chance to create and analyze virtual slides of their own research specimens. The bovine hoof and rumen, marine animal eyes and fungal organisms were among the images scanned on-site for attendees by a machine that can accommodate up to 400 glass slides at a time. Participants could then observe the virtual tissues across magnifications from a whole slide view up to 40x magnification, either on the attached monitor or on one of several laptop computers in the room.

Aperio representatives also demonstrated specific features of Genie, image analysis software that can be trained to meet the individual needs of a user. Once trained, a Genie analysis template can be applied to all virtual slides in a research study simultaneously, minimizing viewer subjectivity and lengthy time requirements typical for manual slide review by an individual researcher.

On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 6, a diagnostic applications conference was held in which diagnosticians from the UD Allen and CANR Comparative Pathology laboratories on Newark campus were able to interface with veterinary diagnosticians from Delaware and Maryland at the Lasher Laboratory in Georgetown, Del., as they held their monthly diagnostic conference. The ability to connect via computer to examine the same slides remotely in real-time is a function that Brannick said could be very beneficial to both diagnosticians and researchers. “Because our groups are so spread apart, it would be nice if we were to get this system on board to be able to conference directly using virtual slides,” she said.

The groups briefly learned about the digital pathology equipment through a standard videoconference, then held a consultation on their diagnostic cases using remotely-linked computers and digital slide images that had been uploaded to Aperio’s servers in California. “I was able to share cases remotely and show participants directly what the lesions were and what I was seeing that helped me make my diagnosis,” said Brannick.

Participants at both locations could take turns analyzing disease lesions at multiple magnifications while discussing details of the case. “We could give Lasher laboratory participants control and they could drive the slide and ask questions,” she said. Despite streaming data from servers across the country, the images uploaded with minimal delay, projected crisply, and maneuvered easily, even for first-time system users.

The diagnostic applications conference was also a first for the Aperio representatives. While remote slide conferencing is a common use for the Aperio imaging system, the UD conference marked the first time the representatives were able to fully demonstrate the intuitive ease of digital conferencing before actually installing a system at a university. “The representatives tell people how to set remote conferencing up all the time but to actually get to do it too was a lot of fun for them,” said Brannick.

As for a teaching tool, Brannick brought the undergraduate and graduate students in her animal histology class in to try the Aperio system to demonstrate to other educators in attendance how beneficial it can be when an entire class can look at the exact same specimen on computer screens as opposed to a variety of samples under individual microscopes.

“If you were to use digital pathology in a lab setting, you could actually have a computer lab where everyone gets the same electronic slide set and then students pull up image after image. You can directly talk with students and guide them as a class through an image,” said Brannick. “Then you could turn control over to the students and have them drive around and show others what they’re looking at and what they see. So that’s a real strength of this system.”

Brannick is now looking to move forward, trying to bring the Aperio brightfield and/or fluorescence digital imaging system to UD on a full-time basis. “We really feel like it will greatly benefit all of these aspects for UD: the research, the teaching and the diagnostics.”

For more information about the Aperio digital pathology technology, contact Erin Brannick at 831-1342.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Comparative Pathology Laboratory to host ‘Introduction to Digital Pathology’

August 29, 2012 under CANR News

The University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Comparative Pathology Laboratory will host  “Introduction to Digital Pathology” demonstration sessions on Thursday, Sept. 6, and Friday, Sept. 7.

The sessions will be held in the conference room of the Charles C. Allen Laboratory on the UD campus in Newark.

Times and topics are as follows:

Thursday, Sept. 6

8 a.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology
10 a.m., Diagnostic Applications in Digital Pathology
1 p.m., Teaching Applications in Digital Pathology
3 p.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology
Friday, Sept. 7

8 a.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology
1 p.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology
3 p.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology

Digital pathology, or ePathology, is a virtual platform for analyzing and sharing tissue specimens. The technology involves scanning and recreating a digital version of glass slides allowing for viewing, quantitative analysis, and real-time conferencing on virtual slides without the need for a microscope. The slides can be viewed and shared remotely, wherever an internet connection is available.

The sessions will feature information about digital pathology given by representatives from Aperio, a company specializing in digital slide scanning systems and related image software.  Complimentary slide scanning will be offered during the demonstrations for individuals interested in viewing specific prepared slides (limit two slides per person; please bring stained slides to the demonstration).

Sessions will last approximately one hour and will have specific themes such as research, diagnostic, and teaching applications in order to provide tailored information to varied audiences at UD and regional partner institutions. All sessions are open to UD researchers, regional partners and the public.

For more information and to register, visit this website.  For questions, contact Erin Brannick.


Brannick brings Veterinary Pathology experience to CANR

November 17, 2011 under CANR News

After leaving Philadelphia in 2006 to head to Ohio State University (OSU) for veterinary school, Erin Brannick thought that she and her husband were done with the east coast. “We both decided—or we thought—that we were mid-westerners,” said Brannick. Little did she know that in five years time, she’d be back by the Atlantic, working at the University of Delaware.

Hired in September, Brannick, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and the director of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Comparative Pathology Laboratory, said that she knew UD was the place for her the moment she arrived for her interview. “I love UD and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I would say that from the moment I came for my interview, it was immediately this sense of peace and this sense of home.”

Brannick said that all of her colleagues have been wonderful and loves how open everyone is to research collaboration. She notes that she has “been really impressed with the caliber of the students as well. I’ve gotten wonderful chances to meet quite a few of the pre-veterinary students as they’ve come in to talk with me about various things. Just to hear about their experiences here and how excited they are about the University and what it has to offer has been very encouraging.”

Brannick has already met with potential students as well, serving as a recruit for the students interested in the University. After sitting in on a single recruiting session for Kimberly Yackoski, assistant dean for student services at CANR, Brannick recalls that the very next day, Yackoski asked if she could meet with a recruit as early as that Friday. Brannick joked, “ ‘Do you think I already know enough to do this?’ But it was a lot of fun. I had a great student. I remember my own undergrad recruiting sessions where you go and talk with professors and I remember the ones that really stood out to me, so I hope to provide that to students considering UD.”

Having completed her undergraduate degree at Wittenburg University, a liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio, Brannick went on to veterinary school at OSU where she earned her veterinary degree (DVM) in 2006 and then her masters degree and ACVP-board certification in veterinary pathology in 2010.

It was near the end of her stint in OSU veterinary school that Brannick decided that she wanted to be a veterinary pathologist instead of a small animal private practitioner. Brannick likened veterinary pathology to putting together pieces of a puzzle, connecting the dots between healthy and un-healthy animal tissue, and then diagnosing a disease. “Compared to what I would expect in a normal tissue, what is different? And when you see something different, whether it’s inflammation or cancer or a degenerative process or anything, then it’s up to you to put the pieces together.”

UD will benefit from this pathology expertise as Brannick heads the Comparative Pathology Laboratory. The lab is located in Worrilow Hall and Brannick said that she works there with Joanne Kramer, a research associate in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. While the majority of their work supports the poultry diagnostic laboratories of Delaware and Maryland, the two “welcome outside submissions, even outside of our department, and we’re happy to collaborate when people need advice or just thoughts on how to proceed with collecting tissues.”

Another area where Brannick will help CANR is that she is a valuable resource for any student interested in applying to veterinary school. Having served on the veterinary admissions committee at OSU, Brannick has been involved behind the scenes and knows what admissions committees are looking for in candidates.

“The big things that veterinary schools are going to look for are strong academic skills, strong leadership and involvement both in the University and also in community,” in addition to varied animal experience and strong communication skills.

Brannick said that she welcomes students and faculty to stop by her office, 41 Townsend Hall, to discuss plans for veterinary school or upcoming research projects.

“I would say that I have an open door policy, even when my door is closed. When you’re doing diagnostic work, you sometimes have to concentrate so carefully that it’s easier to work when the doors are closed but anybody is welcome at anytime.”

Entering her third month of working at the University of Delaware, Brannick is indeed happy to have returned to the east coast and excited to call CANR home.

Article by Adam Thomas