The DALEM project is an example of Space Technology transfer to dermatology
GMV and the Biomedical Research Foundation of Madrid’s Hospital Universitario La Paz (FIBHULP) have launched the DALEM project, collaborating in the development and application of the transfer of space technology for the monitoring of pigmented skin lesions.
Opening up new markets for space technologies and increasing the return on investment in them is one of the objectives of the European Space Agency (ESA). To this end, it has recently opened new calls for proposals aimed at transferring space technologies to other sectors. One of these has taken the form of the DALEM project, in which the technology multinational GMV is collaborating with FIBHULP to improve early diagnosis of skin cancer.
As reported by the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV) and its Healthy Skin Foundation, “the examination and skin screening of each person by dermatologists are key measures to detect melanoma at an early stage and carry out effective treatment to improve the survival rate of patients affected by this skin cancer.”
Numerous studies show that the best way to facilitate early diagnosis of melanoma and reduce related morbidity and mortality is self-examination. Although specialists prescribe periodic check-ups and recommend self-examination, carrying out self-examination becomes more complicated if the number of lesions increases. In addition, patients’ rate of use of self-examination would increase if they could use an accessible device such as a cell phone.
Nowadays, cell phone cameras have sufficient resolution and quality to record an image-based skin map in which pigmented lesions can be identified and traced. Tracking a mole using a cell phone allows a person with no clinical knowledge or special devices to locate and record the evolution of each mole on his or her body over time based on a history of images that the specialist can review at the time of a medical checkup. Thus, adequate screening as a preventive measure in people especially susceptible to developing melanoma would help early diagnosis and reduce morbidity and mortality.
Transferring GMV’s space technology to dermatology
The spatial navigation algorithms developed by GMV, which are based on the vision-based algorithms for the precise descent and landing of space rovers, will be applied to the cell phone-based monitoring of pigmented skin lesions. In the spatial context, so-called navigation strategies are able to match points of interest such as craters or other orographic features from a previously acquired image. This allows location tracking and determination of speed and alignment parameters with the desired landing point.
Thus, the transfer of navigation technology to dermatology offers four main immediate benefits:
1. It facilitates early diagnosis of melanoma and reduces mortality from this cause as a result of a self-examination performed by the patient with his or her cell phone.2. It closes the gap between the dermatologist’s work in consultation and what the patient needs for a personalized follow-up: a safe and automatic way to discriminate changes in their skin before the next follow-up visit.3. It allows the patient to track moles without the need for clinical expertise or specific devices, and to locate and record the evolution of each mole on their own body over time.4. It enables the patient and the dermatologist to spot the emergence of new pigmented lesions and how lesions change over time.
As Carlos Illana, product manager of GMV’s Secure e-Solutions, acknowledges: “The Emergency Radiology Department at Madrid’s Hospital Universitario La Paz has extensive experience in image-based guided scans, and they will help our software and artificial intelligence team achieve clinically significant results. This new form of interaction between patients and dermatologists will enhance the current follow-up procedure, which is only achieved in consultation, but it can now be integrated into patients’ daily routine.”
Doctors Ander Paulo Mayor Ibarguren, Marta Feito Rodríguez, Fátima Albizuri Prado and Rosa Feltes Ochoa, specialists in medical-surgical dermatology and venereology at the Hospital Universitario La Paz participating in the project, agree that, as Feltes points out, “The advance that this technology might represent over existing systems for the acquisition and monitoring of lesion imaging could be very significant. None of the applications currently available on the market provide a means of detecting new moles or changes in existing moles over time. Hence, a safe and automatic method is needed to ascertain whether or not there are changes in the skin before the next follow-up appointment. In addition, the recording of images at different times and with an acceptable level of robustness can be very useful in the necessary monitoring prior to a diagnosis of pathologies such as melanoma.”