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Groundbreaking pre-eclampsia research could save tens of thousands of lives

Researchers led by University College Dublin could save tens of thousands of lives with new pre-eclampsia diagnosis

A team led by University College Dublin (UCD) has been working on an innovative research initiative that could transform pre-eclampsia diagnosis. It is designed to support clinicians to make effective and efficient clinical diagnosis of suspected pre-eclampsia through intelligent and timely risk stratification of patients’ clinical and blood biomarker data, using technology from SAS, the leader in AI and analytics.

With 140 million births each year, more than 11 million women and their babies could be affected by pre-eclampsia globally. Difficult to diagnose and with complex origins, pre-eclampsia has a long-term impact on the health of mothers and their children. The condition claims the lives of 70,000 expectant mothers and 500,000 babies every year worldwide.

Every pregnant women with suspected pre-eclampsia will undergo multiple blood tests, but there is no effective rapid test to aid clinicians in diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. Research by the UCD team funded by Science Foundation Ireland, led to the discovery of important biomarkers with diagnostic and predictive power which, when combined with other clinical data, could be used to create a powerful AI (or machine learning) model to support clinical decision-making.

The solution developed is called AI_PREMie and uses SAS® Viya® hosted on a Microsoft Azure cloud environment.

When clinicians are faced with complex individual cases, AI_PREMie will offer a pre-eclampsia risk score, with red, amber, or green flags to support their clinical decision; including a unified view of the patient data used to create the classification, incorporating unique platelet biomarkers as well as relevant clinical data and demographic information.

“SAS and Microsoft brought experience from banking and government, for example bringing data security skills as well as scalability and resilience,” explained Patricia Maguire, Professor of Biochemistry at University College Dublin. “Clinicians must have absolute trust in the system, and SAS and Microsoft were able to help us deliver on this right at the start.”

With immediate plans to trial AI_PREMie in Dublin maternity hospitals later this year and roll out globally in the coming years, UCD hopes to help care providers around the world prevent thousands of deaths and medical complications caused by pre-eclampsia.

Professor Maguire adds: “Every seven minutes an expectant mum loses her life because of the complications of pre-eclampsia. And about every 40 seconds, a little baby is lost again due to complications of pre-eclampsia. We’re looking forward to deepening our partnership with SAS as we develop AI_PREMie and, ultimately, help clinicians save more lives.”

Alan McGlinn, Director, SAS Ireland, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside Microsoft supporting the tremendous work that’s already been achieved by the team led by University College Dublin and to continue the partnership as they look to broaden the uptake of the AI_PREMie solution.

“This is a great of example of a Data for Good project where data, analytics and AI can support the healthcare sector in saving the lives of patients. Powerful analytics combined with the human expertise of medical professionals is a potent combination and something we can expect to see more of over the coming years.” 

Find out more about this project here and listen to this webinar featuring Professor Maguire on how to use cloud-based analytics and AI to accelerate health care research.

About AI_PREMie

Pre-eclampsia is a dangerous complication that can develop during pregnancy, affecting one in every 12 pregnancies. Pre-eclampsia is characterised by the development of high blood pressure and protein in the urine. However, warning signs can be difficult to detect, meaning pre-eclampsia often goes undetected until complications become serious, often life threatening.

The AI_PREMie team have drawn upon cutting-edge biomedical, clinical and machine-learning research to develop a prototype risk stratification tool, AI_PREMie, that identifies women with pre-eclampsia and how they will progress. AI_PREMie has won several national and international awards and has been rated as ‘Excellent’ in the UNESCO Global Top 100 AI projects addressing the 17 UN sustainable goals.

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