Skin diseases study uses crowdsourcing to gather data

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A new study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center suggests that Galton’s finding of a century ago might have implications for dermatological research and clinical evaluation.

For any number of diseases involving the skin, research into causes and cures requires isolating and quantifying in a reliable way the proportion of affected skin, one research subject after another, the more the better.

This is achieved with medical photography, computer monitors, and mouse-dragging by a research dermatologist to carefully demarcate affected areas. With areas of interest highlighted, software does the final step of quantifying the proportion of affected skin. Massive sets of relevant medical photographs are available for research, filed away in hospitals and clinics, but “the time and expense involved in having experts endlessly pore over these images is a major impediment, and from one study or one expert to the next the consistency in the application of the relevant visual evaluation scales tends to be poor,” said Eric Tkaczyk, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Dermatology and Biomedical Engineering.