Technology is continually opening new doors within healthcare, from simple things such as faster ways of booking a doctor’s appointment to such large-scale projects like developing preventative treatments for cancer, dementia and other illnesses. The latter is where artificial intelligence, or, AI, really comes into play.
THE TERM “AI” refers to advanced technologies that enable a computer to complete tasks that normally require human intelligence. These machines mimic “cognitive” functions that we typically associate with the human mind, such as “learning”, “sensing” and “problem solving,” through recognising intricate patterns within data.
Diagnosis, an understanding of the probability for presence of illness, depends on data, as medical journal, The Lancet explains. “Its collection, integration, and interpretation enables accurate classification of clinical presentations into an accepted disease category. Human diagnosticians achieve acceptable accuracy in such classification tasks through the learning of diagnostic rules, followed by training on real cases.”
In AI, on the other hand, artificial neural networks (so called because of their resemblance to human ones) detect the intricate structures and patterns within large and complex sets of data, such as medical images, for example. Yet arguably the most fascinating feature of these “neural networks” is their ability to evolve on the basis of experience, ie, as they receive and process more and more data, their ability to recognise, classify and—most crucially—predict future patterns becomes more fine-tuned.
AI already spearheads the NHS’s Long Term Plan, which aims to digitise much of the healthcare system and embrace cutting-edge technology, with £250m already invested in the creation of a NHS AI Lab. Here are some of the exciting new developments we can expect to be rolled out within the next decade or so…
EARLY WARNING FOR HEART ATTACKS
More than 7 million people in the UK are living with heart and circulatory diseases, which cause more than a quarter of all deaths.* However, thanks to the ground-breaking research being carried out by the University of Oxford, we are on our way to being able to predict fatal heart attacks with the use of AI.
A heart attack occurs when the blood vessels that supply the heart get clogged with deposits of cholesterol, known as plaques. Before a heart attack, a plaque ruptures, causing a blood clot to develop at the site of the rupture. The clot may then block the supply of blood to the heart, triggering a heart attack. Current diagnostic tests only detect changes in the structure of the blood vessels once damage has already taken place. However, Professor Charalambos Antoniades at the University of Oxford aims to develop a new imaging method that will identify changes in the fat surrounding the blood vessels and use this to look for fatty plaques that are unstable. If a plaque is unstable, it's at a higher risk of rupturing and blocking the blood supply.
“This is essentially a biomarker that predicts who will have a fatal heart attack with reasonable accuracy, and has the potential to guide treatments in the future, allowing us to enter the era of personalised medicine,” says Antoniades.
THE LINK BETWEEN SIGHT LOSS AND DEMENTIA
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