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From stargazing to mole-gazing


Astrophysics and dermatology are colliding through a new research project led by the University of Southampton – with potentially lifesaving consequences.

The project, dubbed MoleGazer, will take algorithms used for detecting exploding stars in astronomical imaging data and develop them to be used to spot changes in skin moles and, therefore, detect skin cancer.

MoleGazer, led by Professor Mark Sullivan, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University, and Postdoctoral Researcher Mathew Smith, has been awarded a Proof of Concept Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). It is the first time the University has won such a grant.

Currently, patients at high risk of developing skin cancer are photographed at regular intervals and a consultant visually compares images to detect changes. MoleGazer could automate this process, potentially leading to earlier diagnoses and improved survival rates.

“It’s a really exciting project that came along from nowhere,” added Professor Sullivan. “It also highlights the importance of blue sky science – curiosity-driven scientific research will always have a fundamentally important role to play.”

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Source: University of Southampton, 10 January 2020

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