Artificial Intelligence has improved organ transplants by selecting donor organs with greater accuracy than human doctors. According to British researchers, a new AI method has been developed that uses its “memory” of tens of thousands of images of donor organs to identify those that offer the best chance of transplant success. The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has invested £1 million in funding for the AI project, which has the potential to increase the number of organs available for transplant.
Currently, surgeons examine donor organs and rely on their own judgement to decide whether they are suitable for transplant. But this new AI system, known as Organ Quality Assessment (OrQA), can improve the accuracy of the decision-making process by using deep machine learning algorithms that are trained using thousands of images of human organs.
The OrQA technology aims to improve the organ transplant system by allowing surgeons to take a photo of the donated organ and upload it to the system, which will provide an immediate answer as to how best to use the donated organ. The OrQA assessment will look for damage, pre-existing conditions, and how well blood has been flushed out of the organ.
The team of experts behind the project includes experts from the University of Oxford and Professor Hassan Ugail, director of the Centre for Visual Computing at the University of Bradford, whose team is designing the image analysis. According to Professor Ugail, the deep machine learning algorithm will assess images of donor organs more effectively than the human eye can see.
Colin Wilson, a transplant surgeon at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and co-lead of the project, explained that until now, surgeons did not have anything to help them at the time of organ retrieval. This new AI technology is a crucial step for professionals and patients to make sure people receive the right transplant as soon as possible. The software scores the quality of the organ and aims to support surgeons to assess if the organ is healthy enough to be transplanted.
The development of this technology is an exciting development in technological infrastructure, said Professor Derek Manas, medical director of NHSBT organ donation and transplantation. He explained that this will enable surgeons and transplant clinicians to make more informed decisions about organ usage and help to close the gap between those patients waiting for and those receiving lifesaving organs.
The UK’s health minister Neil O’Brien praised the pioneering new method, which has the potential to save hundreds of lives and ensure the best use of donated organs. He encouraged everyone to register their organ donation decision and share it with their family, so their loved ones can follow their wishes and potentially save others.
According to the team of experts behind the OrQA technology, it could result in up to 200 more patients receiving kidney transplants and 100 more receiving liver transplants every year in the UK. The project is being backed by the government, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), and the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit. The development of this pioneering new method could save hundreds of lives in the next few years and ensure the best use of donated organs.