29/07/2019 - 14:20

Can AI prevent heart attacks?

29/07/2019 - 14:20

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PREDICTING if someone is at imminent risk of a heart attack has been for a long time the Holy Grail for heart researchers. WA start-up Artrya Pty Ltd is now applying Artificial Intelligence to the challenge. 

PREDICTING if someone is at imminent risk of a heart attack has been for a long time the Holy Grail for heart researchers. WA start-up Artrya Pty Ltd is now applying Artificial Intelligence to the challenge. 

Despite decades of excellent research and the development of sophisticated imaging techniques, heart disease is still the world’s biggest killer. 

The build-up of plaque and the subsequent narrowing of arteries has been the major focus. 

However, narrowed arteries are only part of the story. Heart attacks also occur in people with less than 50% narrowing. In fact, 50% of men and 64% of women who die of heart attack have never had a warning signal and two thirds of them have less than 50% narrowing in the artery. 

The reason is due to a particular type of plaque which can erupt and suddenly block an artery. This plaque is different from the hard calcium detected in CT calcium scans, and is much more difficult to accurately identify. 

Artrya’s all-Western Australian team is developing an Artificial Intelligence solution that if successful could disrupt current approaches and successfully identify at risk patients. 

The start-up is leveraging Perth’s concentration of leading researchers and has brought together a team of 11 West Australians comprising cardiologists, Artificial Intelligence experts and engineers. 

First, the plan is to deliver a system using non-invasive scans to help clinicians better evaluate cardiovascular risk. The aim is to provide a patient report to the treating cardiologist within minutes, as any delay potentially leaves a patient at heightened risk. 

In Australia current wait times can be up to a week. In the UK 230,000 people waited a month before their scan results were received. 

Next the team aims to develop technology that not only identifies plaque but pinpoints plaque which is at heightened risk of rupturing and causing a fatal blockage. 

To achieve this, machines which detect individual pixels will be used as they can work at higher levels of accuracy, consistency and sensitivity than the human eye. 

Already $1million, over-subscribed, in angel funding from Western Australian investors has been put toward the project. 

It will be a major breakthrough if a cost effective and safe technique of interpreting CTCA scan can be developed that identifies patients at risk of dying of heart attack. 

 

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