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A report from the University of Cambridge points out that one of the surprising spin-offs from the search for exoplanets has been a new way to look for signs of cancer.
It’s called PathGrid, and it is a cross-disciplinary initiative by researchers at the Institute of Astronomy and Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.
PathGrid is software that is able to look for crucial patterns in large amounts of data and images - regardless of what scale that data is actually representing.
For exoplanets that a map of light data from ridiculously huge areas of space containing billions of stars. For cancer that’s tiny areas of the human body - which contain trillions of cells, where stained nuclei indicate proteins that might mean cancer is present.
The trick is that - to PathGrid - those two things look about the same.
PathGrid is able to scan that data for vital signs of distant alien planets - usually indicated by ‘wobbles’ in light from distant stars.
“Both astronomy and cell biology deal with huge numbers: our Milky Way contains several billion stars, our bodies tens of trillions of cells,” said astronomer Dr Nic Walton at the university’s website.
(BTW: The medical field receives many times the amount that astrophysics receives...... If money were the issue then we'd have cured nearly everything by now.)