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In this paper, a hybrid neural network/genetic algorithm technique is presented, aiming at designing a feature extractor that leads to highly separable classes in the feature space. The application upon which the system is built, is the identification of the state of human peripheral vascular tissue (i.e., normal, fibrous and calcified). The system is further tested on the classification of spectra measured from the cell nuclei in blood samples in order to distinguish normal cells from those affected by Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. As advantages of the proposed technique we may encounter the algorithmic nature of the design procedure, the optimized classification results and the fact that the system performance is less dependent on the classifier type to be used.