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Dr. Francis Collins

Brain Cell Analysis

Caption: While analyzing brain cells, a computer program “thinks” about which cellular structure to identify.
Credit: Steven Finkbeiner, University of California, San Francisco and the Gladstone Institutes

For centuries, scientists have trained themselves to look through microscopes and carefully study their structural and molecular features. But those long hours bent over a microscope poring over microscopic images could be less necessary in the years ahead. The job of analyzing cellular features could one day belong to specially trained computers.

In a new study published in the journal Cell, researchers trained computers by feeding them paired sets of fluorescently labeled and unlabeled images of brain tissue millions of times in a row [1]. This allowed the computers to discern patterns in the images, form rules, and apply them to viewing future images. Using this so-called deep learning approach, the researchers demonstrated that the computers not only learned to recognize individual cells, they also developed an almost superhuman ability to identify the cell type and whether a cell was alive or dead. Even more remarkable, the trained computers made all those calls without any need for harsh chemical labels, including fluorescent dyes or stains, which researchers normally require to study cells. In other words, the computers learned to “see” the invisible!


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Francis Collins plays guitar with his band ARRA

Here I am playing with my band ARRA – The Affordable Rock’n’Roll Act – at the Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda, MD on April 16, 2018.
Credit: Chia Chi Charlie Chang

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Francis Collins speaking at Inspiring Yale

Enjoyed the opportunity to speak at Inspiring Yale on April 11, 2018.
Courtesy of Shermaine Hutchins

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Looking at the new blog design

Credit: Carla Alvarez Mells/NIH

Welcome to the redesigned NIH Director’s Blog! I hope you like it. While I’ll keep on bringing you exciting advances in NIH-supported science every Tuesday and Thursday, I’ve added a NIH Director’s Album to share photos and videos of some of the amazing people that I meet with—from inspiring high school science students to world-famous celebrities. What’s more, the blog’s new design is a lot more mobile friendly, since I know a lot of you are using laptops less these days.

I welcome your feedback on the redesign—and your ideas on how to make my blog even better moving forward. To share those thoughts, I encourage you to take part in this short readership survey that requires only a minute or two to complete. Thank you!

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Dr. Collins speaking with Brett Baier and Secretary Azar

Talking science with Bret Baier (middle) of Fox News and Secretary Alex Azar (right) during a March 16, 2018 visit to NIH.

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