This year here at Cirdan we have been delighted to celebrate 75 years of the NHS. To mark the momentous occasion, we want to take a look at the evolution of Pathology since the conception of the NHS, back in 1948.
To do so, we need to return to the 1940s, to London during the Second World War. Alexander Fleming had accidentally discovered penicillin almost 2 decades prior, in 1928. However, the discovery did not gain much traction within the medicinal community until it was discovered that it could be used to treat war induced infections and illness, and assist the war efforts in Britain. After some trials of penicillin in both England and the US, curing multiple infection types including sepsis, penicillin became the ‘miracle drug’ of the War. 21 U.S. companies joined together, producing 2.3 million doses of penicillin in preparation of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Pathological discoveries continued post-war into the 1950s. James Gowans laid the foundations of modern cellular immunology in the school of Pathology in Oxford, by uncovering the role of lymphocytes in the body’s immune response. Before this research, the body’s immune response was mostly misunderstood. The mystery of where lymphocytes went after leaving the blood was unexplained. However, his research concluded that lymphocytes had a cyclical journey between the blood and lymph. This understanding revolutionised human understanding of our own inbuilt resistance to antigens which have attacked our system in the past.
For the first time it emerged as a vital part of the healthcare system which has previously been overlooked.
The 1960s saw another transformative decade for the field of pathology. Henry Harris conducted groundbreaking research into malignant tumours and their genetic basis. He fused malignant cancer cells with non-malignant fibroblasts, he found that the hybrids which resulted were also non-malignant. This research thus found for the first time that there is a genetic basis which can suppress tumour malignancy – a finding which has influenced cancer research up to the present day.
The 1970s saw some further developments within the field. With individual hospital sites gaining expertise in the area of pathology, some sites began to place important responsibilities within the hands of pathology for the first time. This included merging important sectors like Public Health with pathology departments, placing pathology on the forefront of Public Health for the first time in history.
The 1980s saw some further developments. One such example is George Brownlee and Merlin Crossley’s cloning of the clotting factor IX to prevent Haemophilia B Leyden patients from bleeding excessively. By discovering an absence of the human clotting factor due to genetic mutations, they were able to bring a new understanding to the disease as well as providing a brand new, non-hazardous replica treatment for the first time. This research has had tremendous significance – providing a brand new treatment for Haemophilia B Leyden patients world over.
The 1990s saw further breakthroughs, particularly within digital pathology. With computer technology rapidly advancing throughout the 1990s, it is no surprise that this decade moved pathology forwards towards the 21st century. In this decade, Whole Slide Scanners became widely available across laboratories, reducing the human workload in identifying areas of interest in samples. For the first time, AI made it possible to both identify areas of interest and easily share samples across sites and between pathology sites.
The 21st Century
The 2000s saw some further developments in the pathology workforce. The number of active pathologists reduced significantly worldwide, with 57.3% of the US pathology workforce aged 55 or over. In turn, digital pathology saw some major increases as the need for Whole Slide Imaging and AI increased to meet requirements with fewer staff.
The 2010s saw further developments in the field. This time saw the entrance of Cirdan on our mission to improve wellbeing through innovation, by focusing on pathology. Our mission has seen us undertake projects in many areas across pathology. Within digital pathology, we have a variety of solutions including Cirdan DP and Tutor, revolutionising digital pathology within laboratory information systems and in educational settings like classrooms. Our aim is to optimise workflows, increase efficiency and ultimately, improve patient outcomes through timely diagnosis.
At Cirdan we are proud of the work we do in revolutionising pathology. We want to thank everyone who has contributed in the field of pathology, particularly those within the NHS. Your commitment to the field has allowed us to grow the discipline into the great science which we have today.