Three examples of where Artificial Intelligence is improving healthcare

The prospect of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our daily lives may be concerning for many. However, one industry where the technology is improving our quality of life significantly is in healthcare. While some use cases of AI in healthcare seem overly hyped, there is also a great deal of hope among researchers that innovations in this area could transform the lives of patients. 

Artificial Intelligence can work in a variety of ways in the healthcare industry. One of the most common uses is to use algorithms and machine learning to compare scans or graphs of hundreds of thousands of patients in order to try and detect patterns in the data. This same technique can also be applied to the most basic structures of the human body to try and understand why certain medicines work better than others.

Below we list three instances where AI is helping researchers make advances in modern medicine.

Detecting Dementia in a day

For the first time it appears as though AI might be able to help spot dementia in one scan rather than the several currently needed to make an accurate diagnosis. 

The AI system works by using algorithms to detect patterns in brain scans, comparing the scans of those worried they might have dementia with scans of thousands of patients who are/were suffering from the condition. The algorithm works so well because it can identify patterns in these scans that even expert neurologists cannot see and match them to outcomes to predict what sort of dementia journey the patient is likely to have.

For example, the system may also be able to show doctors whether the condition will remain stable, slowly deteriorate, or needs immediate treatment – improving the overall prognosis for patients if they are diagnosed early enough. 

In pre-clinical tests the system has been able to diagnose dementia years before and symptoms have developed and in cases where there are no signs of obvious damage on a patient’s brain scan. This helps patients and their families plan, both financially and physically, what they can do with their loved one before the condition deteriorates. 

Predicting our Protein Structures

The proteins of the human body are some of the most important building blocks we create. Indeed, every cell we have is packed with them. As such, understanding the shapes of these proteins is essential to understand how we can better treat disease. 

Before the use of AI in this area, only a small number of these protein shapes had been worked out by scientists. However, using a programme called AlphaFold over 350,000 structures belonging to humans and other animals were discovered. Because the 3D structure of a protein largely dictates its function, the AI programme can help biologists understand how thousands of unknown proteins do their jobs.

Traditional techniques to work out protein structures include X-ray crystallography and cryogenic electron microscopy – neither of which are easy to do due to the amount of money and resources required. Finding one protein structure using these methods usually takes around six months – AI can do it in two minutes.

Advancing the use of Immunotherapy for Cancer treatment 

Immunotherapy looks set to be one of the most promising avenues for treating cancer, helping a person’s immune system fight malignancies using white blood cells, organs, and tissues of the lymph system. 

Unfortunately, at the moment only a small number of patients respond to current immunotherapy options – with oncologists not sure why some people benefit and others don’t. However, researchers predict that up to 20% of all cancer patients could benefit from the treatment if doctors knew who they should prescribe this expensive treatment for. 

This is where AI is being used to help. Using algorithms to synthesise complex datasets is shedding light on why an individual’s genetic makeup is better suited for immunotherapy – allowing doctors to better predict which of their patients will respond to the treatment. 

More patient data is needed to help drive the modelling process behind why immunotherapy works for some people and not others, however, by using AI to look into particular biomarkers on tumors, predicting a patient’s response to immunotherapy is slowly getting easier

Have we missed any other examples you know about cases where Artificial Intelligence is being used in healthcare? Let us know in the comments section. And, if you have any questions or other technology queries, please tweet us at @techtroublesho1.

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