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Understanding the Body with Smart Data: In-Memory Technology in Personalized Medicine

March 15, 2016 by Frank Wittmann 80

Huge amounts of data exist in today’s healthcare. Technically-speaking, this data can be analyzed with real-time methods, such as in-memory technology, and be made available for medical treatment.

Computer researchers at Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) are thus working to help patients receive more personalized treatment.

The human body is complex. Just one genome, for instance, contains over 3 billion pieces of genetic information. Modern medicine seeks to penetrate this complexity in order to offer patients even better treatment. New diagnostic procedures like genome sequencing help exploit these huge data sources. However, the analysis involved often proves difficult. The problems lie in the diversity of the distributed data and its collection.

“Physicians have become data analysts, who must laboriously gather and standardize the data themselves,” says Dr. Matthieu-P. Schapranow, program manager of E-Health & Life Sciences at Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI). Consequently, the time-consuming analyzes are only carried out in certain cases. Yet, already today interdisciplinary teams can create future-proof solutions, the Potsdam scientist said.

Together with project partners from clinical research, Schapranow’s team in the HPI Research Group led by Prof. Hasso Plattner are working on customized software applications that support experts in the analysis of huge amounts of data. The in-memory technology researched at HPI is thereby used, which for the first time allows combining and analyzing large amounts of data in real time.

“Physicians, clinical researchers and health experts can make precise therapy decisions based on the knowledge available worldwide, regardless of where they are located, says Schapranow. In addition to individual patient data, information from worldwide medical databases is also at their disposal. Physicians can then concentrate on what is most crucial to them—the treatment of their patients. Not only does faster and more accurate decision-making then become possible, but also a minimization of side effects and a reduction of costs, said the computer scientist.

The cloud platform “Analyze Genomes,” bundles the joint research of the Potsdam scientists with that of physicians, biologists and geneticists. The platform already offers researchers and doctors applications for their work:

  • With the help of the “Genome Browser,” even without access to sequencing machines, researchers can explore DNS in detail and identify information about pathogenic changes themselves.
  • In the “Medical Knowledge Cockpit”, doctors and patients get a comprehensive picture of individual and genetic characteristics, biological relationships, and information about the therapies available worldwide.
  • Clinicians can use the “Drug Response Analysis” to incorporate, for the first time, findings from past cases to the chemotherapy prognosis for current cases

Schapranow and his team present two ongoing research projects from the health sector at CeBIT 2016 (Hasso Plattner Institute, Hall 6, D18):

  • The SMART project, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Research program “e: Med – Med Sys, is focused on facilitating a better understanding of the complex causes of chronic heart failure and how they interact. Using the methods of analysis, physicians will be able to make better predictions in the future about the possible course of the disease and therapeutic successes.
  • With their project “Smart Analysis – Health Research Access” (SAHRA), HPI scientists show how huge amounts of already available healthcare data can be combined and examined on the basis of in-memory technology and scientific analysis. Treatment, billing, study, and registry data, rendered anonymous to protect privacy, can be combined and made available for healthcare research.

The application of in-memory technology and information technology analysis methods in medicine are manifold. The range of possibilities extends from the planning of future medical care to the personalization of cancer treatment.  But the goal of the various research fields always remains the same: to make it possible for patients to get the best holistic treatment now and in the future.

Top image via Shutterstock

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