Digital image enhancement

Award Year 

A sailor trying to find mines in a cluttered underwater environment faces the same challenges as a physician looking for microcalcifications in a mammogram of dense breast tissue. Both of these searches can benefit from digital image enhancement. (more)

Michael Duarte of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Newport developed a digital image enhancement technology that uses wavelets and mathematical functions, which serve as building blocks to represent data. Applying the digital image enhancement allows small objects to be found in a large, complex area. This patented technology, as applied to breast cancer screening, would improve the physician's ability to detect microcalcifications on a mammogram, thus catching cancer at an earlier stage than previously possible. Early detection would improve the patient's chance of survival and allow less invasive treatment options.

Duarte, a digital signal processing expert, noted the similarities between underwater mine–hunting sonar and the problems of detecting small lesions in mammograms. Under dual–use funding, he began working on mammogram digital image enhancement, using NUWC's state–of–the–art technical facilities.  Duarte then worked with James Kasischke, a NUWC patent attorney, to identify business and patent opportunities that led to CRADAs with Advanced Image Enhancement, Inc. (AIE) and the Slater Center for Interactive Technologies. A licensing agreement has also been established with AIE. Thanks to Duarte, the Navy has successfully transferred undersea mine–hunting technology to the medical community. Digital image enhancement will enable doctors to have greater success detecting early–stage breast cancer, and women will benefit from early detection, resulting in thousands of lives saved.