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Cancer

With approximately 230,000 deaths per year, cancer is the second most common cause of death in Germany (first place: cardiovascular disease). Due to the aging process, the number of new cancers occurring each year is increasing. Currently, the most common cancer for men is prostate cancer, followed by lung and colon cancer. For women, on the other hand, breast cancer is the most common cancer, followed by colorectal and lung cancer. This leaves most (affected) people wondering what cancer is and how it occurs. How cancer develops has not yet been clarified in detail. However, it is known that all types of cancer have in common a degenerate development of originally healthy body cells. They grow uncontrolled, into the surrounding tissue, and thus have a fatal functional restriction of the affected organs. These cancer cells can originate in almost any organ and migrate to other organs and lymph nodes via blood vessels or lymphatics. From there, they can develop into metastases, which also grow into healthy tissue just like the main tumor. In the case of cancer, therefore, survival depends on the timing of the cancer diagnosis, since cancer in its early stages has a good chance of cure and is usually not metastasized. Diagnostics play a key role in this: nowadays, cancer is diagnosed with the help of laboratory tests. To develop fast and targeted control examinations and therapy concepts, good laboratory equipment is, therefore, a mandatory requirement of every clinic. The faster and more accurately cancer is detected, the greater the chance of a successful cure. 

What actually is cancer?

 The body of every creature is made up of countless different cells, all of which have different tasks. An association of cells is called a tissue, which is a component of an organ. Each cell has a certain lifetime, therefore it can form new (and identical) cells by its division to maintain the organ function. If the body cells are healthy, their growth, development, and division as well as their death proceed without any problems. Cancer is a pathological change in the cells of the body. In this case, uncontrolled multiplication occurs due to rapid and defective division. So that they eventually form a lump (tumor). A tumor is defined as a hardening or swelling. They can be benign or malignant. The malignant tumor cells are often dangerous, as these cells can invade deeper and deeper into adjacent tissues and form metastases. The difference between benign and malignant tumors is no benign cells reach healthy tissue. Benign tumors include lipomas (fatty growths), moles, hemangiomas (vascular growths), and myomas (muscle cell growths).

How does cancer develop?

Taking a closer look at the development of cancer, there are various misregulations in the cell’s division. This disturbing process is called carcinogenesis, which originates in a cell whose genetic material is altered (by inheritance or independently acquired). This change (defect) is not reversed by misregulated repair mechanisms and is passed on accordingly during cell division. The older the human being gets, the more unreliable the repair system of the genetic material works. With further proliferation, these defective malignant cells can displace and damage the healthy cells. Among the best-known and most frequent causes, besides old age, are cigarette smoke, alcohol, sunlight, or radioactive radiation. Besides, there is a whole range of other causes of genetic changes, which would be too much to list here. However, it should be known that lifestyle such as diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and smoking, in addition to external factors such as sunlight and pollutants, play a major role in the development of cancer. Accordingly, some of these risk factors can be influenced, while others cannot. It is estimated that about one-third of cancers could be prevented by avoiding risk factors such as smoking or alcohol. The remaining diseases are due to factors that cannot be influenced or are unknown.

What are the cancer classifications?

Cancer can be classified according to organ, cell of origin, characteristics of the tumor tissue (dignity), appearance type of the tumor (phenotype), diversity of cells within the tumor (grading), state of spread (staging), and metastasis of the main tumor. The classifications and tumor type are important for subsequent therapy and control examinations, as they allow more targeted planning and treatment. The internationally standardized classification is the TNM-classification (tumor, “nodus” or lymph nodes and metastases). These classifications are highly relevant for every type of cancer in every possible organ (from the brain to the urinary bladder) and vascular system. The classification has the advantage of standardizing cancer studies worldwide for research and prognostic purposes, thus enabling better treatment planning.

How can cancer be diagnosed?

Early diagnosis of cancer is extremely important because it significantly improves the prospects for treatment. Thus, the chances of recovery increase the earlier the cancer is detected. The first step in diagnosis is a detailed interview and physical examination of the patient. There are various examination methods for localizing the exact location of cancer. For example, blood tests, imaging procedures (ultrasound examination, X-ray, computer tomography, or MRI), and taking tissue samples (biopsy) provide important information about the organ, metastases, and corresponding functional impairment of the body. There are also so-called tumor markers in the blood, which are the body’s substances that proliferate in some cancers. These substances are either formed by the cancer cells themselves or are stimulated to form. These tumor markers are usually determined during control examinations after successful treatment to rule out a recurrence of cancer.

How can cancer be treated?

Since every cancer is different from person to person, it is essential to tailor treatment to the individual. Each patient has different requirements for certain therapies. Therefore, the general condition and concomitant diseases of the patient must be strictly considered beforehand. Thus, the optimal cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer as well as its spread. Treatment usually consists of three basic pillars: surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiotherapy. In surgery, depending on the condition, cancer can be completely removed, chemotherapy stops the uncontrolled altered cell division by special cell toxins (cytostatics), and if necessary, radiation therapy can also be used to target cancer cells with electron radiation or X-rays. This procedure causes targeted damage to the cancer cells, which in turn causes cancer to decrease in size or stop growing. In addition to the three therapy options mentioned, other treatment options are used depending on the particular type of cancer, such as hormone therapy for hormone-dependent prostate or breast cancer, or antibody therapy (immune treatment), in the course of which special antibodies attack the cancer cells. When considering the therapy concept, a clear objective should also be defined, i.e. is the treatment completely curative, or does it only alleviate the symptoms and improve the quality of life for a certain period. Therefore, as a person affected or a close caregiver, one should not immediately think of a death sentence when cancer is diagnosed. If the serious disease is detected at an early stage, a cure is often possible. For this reason, it is advisable to attend cancer screening examinations regularly.

About the author
Elif Karakurt
medical content creator
Elif is a medical student and works for Cytolytics in the branches of content creation and marketing alongside her studies. She is the head of the Cytolytics blog and could already gather experience in writing medical articles for various magazines. Her interests are recent health issues and news about medicine, health technologies, and digital health.
flowcytometry &cytolytics (2)

Digital Health

Digital transformation has fully taken hold of the healthcare sector and has come at just the right moment. Because of the large number of important medical decisions and the associated impact on patients’ quality of life, the healthcare sector is in urgent need of the possibilities offered by digitalization. After all, patient care often happens under high workloads, time constraints, complex paperwork, and an ever-changing job profile for medical staff. Also, the increasing aging of the population, the rise in chronic diseases, and the explosion of costs in the healthcare sector pose an enormous challenge for the healthcare system. Digital innovation seems to be the only and viable solution to all these difficulties. Digitalization is shifting the focus away from individual healthcare to a networked, global mindset. In the future, communication and information technologies will help to improve the electronic processing of communication, information, and data acquisition for medical care, documentation, and treatments in the healthcare sector, to provide ideal and individualized patient care.

What does digital health mean?

 

Digital health describes the combination of medicine and technology. It serves as a collective term for various technological innovations and applications in the healthcare sector. This ranges from hospital management and electronic health records to health apps and fitness trackers. For doctors, digitalization in the healthcare system is great support, as it can facilitate the diagnosis of complex diseases, analysis and interpretation of patient-related data, and treatment of diseases using artificial intelligence (AI). Digital health can also support patients in their everyday lives through monitoring sensors, rehabilitation robotics for people with disabilities, or long-term care.

What are the digital areas in healthcare?

 

health IT: it deals with the design, development, creation, use, and maintenance of healthcare information systems. It deals with the application of information processing, storage, retrieval, and use of data for communication and decision-making in healthcare. 

 

e-Health: stands for electronic health, which merges the three industries of medicine, IT, and healthcare management. It serves as an umbrella term for electronic health records, electronically supported disease, and knowledge management, and personally delivered healthcare for the diagnosis, monitoring, consultation, appointments, and prescriptions.

 

m-Health: stands for mobile health and refers to the use of smartphone or tablet apps to support medical processes. This includes, for example, the determination of vital signs such as blood glucose or body temperature, but also communication or motivational applications designed to remind people to take medication, among other things

Telemedicine: describes the provision of healthcare services and medical education over a distance, using information and communication technology. All healthcare providers can be involved in the delivery of telemedicine. 

Health Smart Home (HSH): describes the equipping of the living space of people with special needs for healthcare purposes. The aim is to increase patient/resident safety by monitoring and controlling the immediate physical environment with a focus on health status.

How will digital health develop?

 

The first steps in the digitalization of the German healthcare system have been set 2019 in motion by various legal measures. In addition to electronic prescriptions and electronic patient files with smartphone or tablet access, the new laws also enable the establishment of a telematics infrastructure to which service provider groups (midwives, physiotherapists, and care facilities) can voluntarily connect. With the help of these measures, the German Federal Ministry of Health would like to enable medical prescriptions for prescription drugs to be issued only electronically via the telematics infrastructure from 2022. But for this to happen, good digital services must be available promptly and services such as video consultations, electronic prescriptions, and the electronic patient file must become a natural part of everyday care. Another step in digitalization is the expansion of artificial intelligence. 

What are the obstacles to digitalization?

 

Before healthcare providers can realize the enormous potential of digitalization, several obstacles must be overcome – from efficient processing of the growing flood of data to better integration and education of the population. Physicians need new tools to process the flood of medical data quickly and accurately. Artificial intelligence capabilities provide the critical foundation for efficient decision support in routine clinical practice. Acceptance and trust are elementary prerequisites for advancing digital healthcare. That is why it is important to educate and create understanding for digital solutions in healthcare. This does not only apply to doctors, psychotherapists, and other service providers. It is equally important to build and strengthen the (digital) health literacy of patients. More and more people are informing themselves about health issues on the Internet. But one in two faces problems in finding their way around the healthcare system, evaluating information, and making the right decisions in the face of an increasing wealth of information. The goal of digitalization should be to sustainably increase health knowledge and thus help make it more user-friendly and modern.

What prospects does digitalization promise?

 

Digitalization promises to improve patient care while increasing efficiency in the healthcare system and also reducing costs. It can close information gaps, avoid misdiagnoses, improve prevention, and individualize diagnostics and therapy. Digitalization thus represents a huge growth market from both a medical and an economic perspective. In an international comparison, the U.S. and China are currently leading in the state of healthcare digitalization and innovation, as they are already dominant in other high-tech industries. In this context, Artificial intelligence represents a technological megatrend. It could be shown that in more than 2/3 of the companies in Germany AI is classified as important or even essential. Intending to make Germany a leading location for artificial intelligence, the German government’s National AI-Strategy has launched funding programs, initiatives and cooperations to use AI to improve and facilitate not only advanced patient care but also everyday life and work.

About the author
Elif Karakurt
medical content creator
Elif is a medical student and works for Cytolytics in the branches of content creation and marketing alongside her studies. She is the head of the Cytolytics blog and could already gather experience in writing medical articles for various magazines. Her interests are recent health issues and news about medicine, health technologies, and digital health.
flowcytometry &cytolytics

Flow Cytometry& Cytolytics


Flow cytometry is a recent laboratory technique of great importance in contemporary medicine and cancer research. It is used to examine blood components, bone marrow and other substances. This method provides important information about immune status, diagnosis and progression of blood cancer and other immunodeficiency diseases. It is also used in the examination of plants, small organisms (viruses, bacteria, spores) and food samples. Flow cytometry is a powerful method because it quickly, accurately and easily collects data on many parameters from a heterogeneous mixture of fluids. Depending on the software, the duration and quality of the evaluation of the sought parameters differ. Very few adequate software are capable of performing more complex analyses without gating in the shortest time with high reliability.

What is flow cytometry (FC)?

Flow cytometry (FC) is widely used in the research field because it enables accurate phenotyping of cells as well as rapid detection of large cell populations in a liquid medium (e.g. blood sample). At the same time, immune cell subtypes are easy to identify, separate and label due to size and morphology.

Where does the name flow cytometry (FACS) come from?

In flow cytometry, particulate structures (events), e.g. immune defense cells, are transported one after the other through a narrow measuring chamber like a string of pearls. Lasers detect these events laterally as they flow through, hence the name flow cytometry. Depending on the device and software, these lasers detect different properties of the events via their scattered light. The device with which flow cytometry is performed is also called a FACS device. FACS stands for fluorescence activated cell sorting.

What does scattered light mean?

When an event interacts with laser light, scattered light is produced. Depending on the intensity and strength of the scattered light, properties such as cell size, cell membrane structure and intracellular components are detected by detectors. A distinction is made between forward scatter (FSC) and side scatter (SSC), which provide information about size and granularity.

What is the purpose of fluorescence?

In FACS analysis events can be loaded with fluochrome to more accurately characterize the properties and differences between them. The fluochrome absorbs the energy of the laser and light emissions typical of the dye are released. The resulting signals are detected by appropriate fluorescence detectors and later analyzed. The more fluochromes are bound to the events, the more intense the signals are.

How does FACS analysis work?

At the end of the FACS analysis, by labeling the events with the fluorochrome, passing the lasers and measuring the emitted light by detectors, the data is finally analyzed. The signals, which are detected by the detectors, are sorted graphically according to properties and presented for the research question.

How does the signal processing work?

The signals and values are processed and evaluated by using software. The data can be mapped linearly or logarithmically. Depending on the configuration and device, up to 60 parameters can be measured simultaneously at individual events. The representation of the parameters are listed depending on the problem in different variants such as the one, two parameter representation, (overlapping) populations and compensation.

What is gating?

Gating is the so-called selecting of events that really interest you. Simply said, someone defines a group of cells and gates them into another diagram. However, since more than one cell population or trait is studied in research, gating can be very time consuming. It typically takes up to several hours. New software, like Cytolytics allows reliable, flexible and above all, fast evaluation without gating.

What does Cytolytics offer?

Cytolytics is a medical technology company specializing in the analysis of medical data using Artificial Intelligence methods. Through cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology, it offers fully automated, fast and reliable flow cytometry analysis. Hours of gating are eliminated by Cytolytics’ fully automated software, which analyzes FACS data up to 60 times faster and provides comprehensible reliable analysis for the research. Cytolytics enables concrete and understandable settings and steps with a high degree of individualization.

What does Artificial Intelligence (AI) mean?

Cytolytics works with the innovation of unsupervised machine learning, which sorts and classifies complex relationships, patterns and similarities using certain criteria and features. Artificial intelligence is built like an artificial neural network that discovers data sets with similar content from a large amount of data in a fully automated way according to predefined rules. Classifies and evolves at the same time. AI can be found in the areas of research, business and game development, as it is ideal for scientific questions, pattern recognition and image processing.

What innovation does Cytolytics offer?

In addition to sequential gating for detailed analyses, the graphical user interface for different computers and a plausibly explained and understandable software language, Cytolytics offers above all a complete automation of the evaluation. With the help of the new innovation of full automation, not only large data sets are compared, but also abnormalities, anomalies and outliers are detected on the basis of the standardized setting. The automated analysis provides a standardized evaluation option, so that introduction with the Cytolytics software is effortless. The automated result documentation can be exported to various applications such as PPT, Word and Excel, and a result presentation is possible directly and quickly without reprocessing. By means of full automation, not only fast evaluations but also comparable, valid, repeatable and meaningful results are delivered. With today’s technology, FACS can identify which tumor and which cells are affected in the case of a cancer diagnosis. However due to the time-consuming nature of gating, therapy planning and corresponding therapy control examinations often take place under great time pressure. Time is a life-saving factor and can in sufficient quantities, enable precise, targeted therapy planning, for example in the case of leukemia. Cytolytics provides an innovative and intelligent solution for this. With time-saving analysis without gating, more time is available for planning therapies for life-threatening diseases and for preparing as well as publishing research.

About the author
Elif Karakurt
medical content creator
Elif is a medical student and works for Cytolytics in the branches of content creation and marketing alongside her studies. She is the head of the Cytolytics blog and could already gather experience in writing medical articles for various magazines. Her interests are recent health issues and news about medicine, health technologies, and digital health.
flowcytometry &cytolytics (1)

Start Ups

 

“A start-up describes a recently launched company”. But is every recently launched company also a start-up? Many people associate start-ups with the clichéd image of potential founders developing their ideas during night shifts in inconspicuous garages to subsequently bring them to market. But even if this image is somewhat clichéd, there is a lot of truth in it – because at the beginning of a successful start-up there is almost always an innovative idea and few financial resources. Start-ups break up existing structures and replace them with their innovation within a few years. Most start-up founders have been working in an industry or dealing with a specific topic for a long time before they formulate a business idea that is suitable for a start-up. It often has to deal with a young or non-existent market and must first find a functioning and scalable business model. Once they have found and established this, they are generally no longer considered a startup.

What is a start-up?

The word start-up is a term for young companies that are in the start-up phase with an innovative business idea. There are many characteristics with which start-ups stand out from common companies. One is the characteristic degree of innovation. An idea is pursued that, in the best case, has an above-average potential to grow (scale). Secondly, it is also the team culture and mindset within the start-up. This includes energetic leadership, strong team cohesion, the ability to act quickly, and constant learning. Another characteristic of start-ups is low seed capital. Financing is usually provided by start-up grants and investors rather than traditional loans. But despite all these characteristics, start-ups are highly important for the economy. The German government declares start-ups and entrepreneurs as important players in the national economy and the global market, as they contribute to the stability of the democratic world order and entrepreneurial freedom. They realize innovative ideas, have positive effects on the labor market, and create jobs. In this way, founders of startups promote progress, growth, and competitiveness, thus preventing “power concentration” of big players ,through heterogeneity and diversity.

What is a good idea for a start-up?

 

Many people dream of being their boss and starting their own business. But many questions occupy most. How should I become self-employed and start my own business? Where can I find inspiration and methods? Are there ideas that will make a positive difference? Is the idea sufficient? Start-up ideas exist in various fields of activity. Maybe you stumble upon a problem that can be solved with your own and new business idea and even represents a real gap in the market. Often you are the best source of innovation yourself. What keeps you busy? Have you ever had a situation where you realized you could improve something? Recognizing an opportunity is crucial. After all, in addition to brainstorming, the viability of the idea is also relevant. Modern technology and sustainability offer many opportunities for redesign and environmentally conscious change. That is why most startups are encountered in the technology sector. Many young founders can be found in the development of medical technology, artificial intelligence, and sustainable food ideas as well as innovations in the field of biotechnology. Digitalization allows creative founders to realize novel and innovative concepts.

How can you successfully found a start-up?

As a founder, certain qualities are necessary to be able to successfully implement the business ideas. Starting with a high willingness to perform, a healthy degree of risk-taking, a high level of resilience, and the ability to motivate people. One should know one’s strengths and weaknesses right from the start and be willing to work on them. Also, one should be sufficiently equipped professionally to be able to survive in their market. Once a business idea is in place, the next step should be the development of a scalable business model and detailed preparation of a business plan. The next step is to find suitable financing (more on this later). A business plan guides someone on their own and reasonably estimates the risks and opportunities of the start-up. Besides the business idea and the business plan, a motivated team is also very important. The founding team usually covers three areas: Development, Marketing, and Sales. One person can’t manage all these areas alone, which means you won’t get far as a lone fighter.  The more people with different characters, different backgrounds, and strengths are in the team, the more extensive are the abilities to make the start-up successful. There are hardly any investors who are not interested in knowing who is behind a start-up idea. For investors, a team that works well together represents one of the key reasons to invest in an idea. The composition of personalities and the skills of the team are an initial predictive level for future startup success. Therefore, a team that works together and trusts each other with a flat hierarchy is essential for the success of a start-up.

How long does the start-up phase last?

 

For start-ups, it usually takes an average of one year from the founding of the company to market launch, from research and development to the establishment of production and sales. Until a start-up has successfully established itself as a company in the market, it goes through various development phases and this can take up to four to seven years.

What are the development phases of a start-up?

 

Startups can be divided into four development phases: 

 

Seed phase: With the help of the creation of a business idea and business plan, it is assessed how the development of the business idea is feasible, whether the product is viable in the market and how much capital is needed. 

 

Start-up phase: This is the phase in which the company is founded and includes the completion of a market-ready product and the subsequent public presentation (rollout). The focus here is on the design of sales and production options and the implementation of marketing campaigns.

 

Emerging growth: The focus here is on rapid market penetration through targeted sales development.

 

Expansion: Once the business model has been successfully established in the market, the next steps of expansion can be taken. These include, for example, further development of the products or services and expansion of the sales systems.

How can you finance a start-up?

In addition to the idea, business model, business plan, and founding team, the successful establishment of a start-up also requires sufficient financing.

Since in most cases only a small amount of start-up capital is available to implement the business idea, many start-ups aim to expand their business at an early stage. For financing, a classic loan via banks is often difficult to organize due to the high risks involved. Therefore, innovative forms of financing such as venture capital (venture angels) and scholarships are more suitable. Venture capital refers to investors who support start-ups using their funding, network, and know-how and are interested in the rapid growth of the company. Family and friends can also invest in a start-up as private investors. There are also subsidies from the federal government or the European Union, these are loans with good conditions that must be repaid in part or in full. There are also subsidies that you can keep completely as a founder – for example, the start-up subsidy and the EXIST start-up grant. In the start-up scene, young companies can also participate in countless regional and national start-up competitions, whose prizes also serve as short-term interim financing.

Founding a start-up is exciting and challenging at the same time. With the right idea, solid planning, a well-functioning team, and a good funding program, nothing stands in the way of success.

 

 

About the author
Elif Karakurt
medical content creator
Elif is a medical student and works for Cytolytics in the branches of content creation and marketing alongside her studies. She is the head of the Cytolytics blog and could already gather experience in writing medical articles for various magazines. Her interests are recent health issues and news about medicine, health technologies, and digital health.