Tissue microarray technology (TMA) is a relatively new approach for efficiently and economically assessing protein and gene expression across large ensembles of tissue specimens. Tissue microarray technology holds great potential for reducing the time and cost associated with conducting research in tissue banking, proteomics, and outcome studies. However, the sheer volume of images and other data generated from even limited studies involving tissue microarrays quickly approach the processing capacity and resources of a division or department. This challenge is compounded by the fact that large-scale projects in several areas of modern research rely upon multi-institutional efforts in which investigators and resources are spread out over multiple campuses, cities, and states. To address some of the data management issues several leading institutions have begun to develop their own "in-house" systems, independently, but such data will be only minimally useful if it isn't accessible to others in the scientific community. Investigators at different institutions studying the same or related disorders might benefit from the synergy of sharing results. To facilitate sharing of TMA data across different database implementations, the Technical Standards Committee of the Association for Pathology Informatics organized workshops in efforts to establish a standardized TMA data exchange specification. The focus of our research does not relate to the establishment of standards for exchange, but rather builds on these efforts and concentrates on the design, development and deployment of a decentralized collaboratory for the unsupervised characterization, and seamless and secure discovery and sharing of TMA data. Specifically, we present a self-organizing, peer-to-peer indexing and discovery infrastructure for quantitatively assessing digitized TMA's. The system utilizes a novel, optimized decentralized search engine that supports flexible querying, while guaranteeing that once information has been stored in the system, it will be found with bounded costs.
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