X-ZELL to launch AI-powered cell analysis project
Singapore, July 2019 – Singapore-based rare cell detection specialist, X-ZELL, is about to embark on the most ambitious research and innovation project in the company’s history.
Nicknamed Cloud Atlas, the landmark project will consolidate the image material collected across a series of studies on circulating cancer cells and use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyse them for morphological patterns.
According to X-ZELL Founder & CEO, Dr Sebastian C.P. Bhakdi, Cloud Atlas was inspired by the work of George Papanicolaou, who invented the eponymous Papanicolaou test – commonly known as the Pap smear test  – and will result in a catalogue of criteria to help researchers categorise cancer cells upon visual inspection.
“More than 70 years ago, Papanicolaou demonstrated that it is possible to differentiate normal from malignant cells under the microscope after isolating them from a bodily fluid – a breakthrough that single-handedly revolutionised our understanding of early cancer detection and saved millions of lives,” he explained.
“Until today, his relatively simple, pathology-based approach has remained one the most effective ways of detecting cancer early, when it can be cured. Due to technical limitations, however, it has also remained limited to cancers arising from the cervix.”
According to Dr Bhakdi, Papanicolaou knew that his concept was scalable to more cancers than one, even suggesting that the morphological differences of malignant cells could be unique to the organs they came from. Cell isolation and analysis technologies, however, were not advanced enough to prove his theory – until now.
“As our growing body of research into tumour-derived Circulating Endothelial Cells (tCEC) has shown, X-ZELL is capable of extracting and visualising even the rarest of cells from a small blood or tissue sample without losing any morphological information,” Dr Bhakdi explained .
“What it has also led to is the creation of a vast database of high-res cell images from multiple organs that will now be consolidated under the umbrella of Cloud Atlas.”
An in-house AI that is currently undergoing initial testing by will be tasked with screening the database for morphological patterns to not only differentiate malignant cells from healthy ones, but also reveal the organs of origin.
The final product will be the first systematic atlas of tumour-associated circulating cells in the history of Medicine and an AI capable of scanning cell samples for a series of malignancies.
“We are extremely proud to announce that we are finally in a position to put Papanicolaou’s theory to the test,” Dr Bhakdi explained. “We have the technology to isolate and visualise cancer cells without losing morphological information, and we have the computing capabilities to analyse them at scale. If the results confirm what Papanicolaou was only able to theorise upon, we could be on the brink of a cancer screening revolution.”
According to Dr Bhakdi, project Cloud Atlas is set to commence in September 2019 and has no set end date, as X-ZELL’s long-term pipeline of clinical studies will continue to feed into the database and improve the company’s AI performance.
 The Pap smear is a routine procedure during which cells from are scraped from the cervix and analysed for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells.
 X-ZELL has developed a modular, highly integrated rare cell detection platform technology covering the entire process from cell isolation through to multiplexed staining, image acquisition and analysis. We call it Single Cell Pathology.
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