Healthcare has had major upgrades since implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to facilitate the responsibilities of doctors, technicians, nurses, and other medical employees. This technology is constantly being advanced to reach ultimate standards in efforts to aid and improve medicine as we know it. Within the past year, the completion and outcome of several AI and 3D bioprinting developments have proven its gravity for mesothelioma patients.
AI in radiology medical imaging takes the pressure off doctors, and though radiologists are not letting this technology fully take over, they are using AI to reinforce and confirm their judgments on data. Nature Medicine published an article on deep learning-based classification in order to improve mesothelioma patient outcomes. This system, known as MesoNet, judges the prognosis for cases “from whole-slide digitized images, without any pathologist-provided locally annotated regions.” MesoNet proved to outperform predictions for survival over contemporary pathology practices.
MesoNet met many of the adversities with present-day image scanning. Deep learning paired with the accessibility of “thousands of histology slides provides a new opportunity to revisit classical approaches to diagnosis and predicting patient outcomes.” While radiologists are still regarded as authoritative for conclusive decisions, MesoNet is unlocking previously untapped knowledge.
In past years, the “approach [was] usually seen as a black-box, where image features contributing to the prediction [were] hardly intelligible.” The patterns deep learning forge enable an algorithm “specifically customized to analyze large images, such as whole-slide images (WSIs), without any local annotation by pathologists.”
This release formed after a comprehensive “dataset of 2,981 slides from 2,981 pleural mesothelioma patients from multiple French institutions.” As a rare type of cancer, mesothelioma patients may be able to rely on MesoNet for future prognosis. The diagnosis of mesothelioma is traditionally delayed, meaning discovery in the late stage often leaves patients with little time for treatment. While this cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos, and therefore more preventable than other cancers, its particular nature in symptoms and discovery is more severe.
3D bioprinting is another silver lining for mesothelioma patients. Just last year (September 2019), Harvard engineers were able to manufacture more realistic tissue to mimic organic organs. A continuous impediment for organ printing was its ability to operate alone and with endurance.
The technique called SWIFT (sacrificial writing into functional tissue) modifies the way 3D printed tissue behaves post design and generation. SWIFT “3D print[s] vascular channels into living matrices composed of stem-cell-derived organ building blocks (OBBs), yielding viable, organ-specific tissues with high cell density and function.” Scientists are addressing the primary obstacles through an innovative approach.
It begins with a two-step process: “forming hundreds of thousands of stem-cell-derived aggregates into a dense, living matrix of OBBs that contains about 200 million cells per milliliter.” Sacrificial writing comes into play when “a vascular network through which oxygen and other nutrients can be delivered to the cells is embedded within the matrix by writing and removing a sacrificial ink.” Rather than managing a whole organ, engineers realize that this process requires them to 3D print layers of tissue, channels, and organ parts in order to construct a safe and life-like model.
More recently, the pressure for organ transplant availability is relieved with the concept of 3D bioprinting in space. Following the Harvard Wyss Institute discovery with SWIFT, human tissue is testing and unpredictable: “bioinks require scaffolding materials or thickening agents to resist the destructive pull of gravity, according to Greenville, Ind.-based Techshot. Those materials weigh down the soft, easily flowing biomaterials, causing the 3D-printed tissues to collapse under their own weight.”
Techshot, the company expanding upon 3D bioprinting’s progress, is introducing printing in space. They have already “printed a large volume of human heart cells aboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.” A microgravity environment encourages organ structures to preserve their intended construct. Whether this yields viable organs readily transplantable within the next few years, 3D bioprinting remains a high-priority for mesothelioma patients. The lungs and heart are fundamental organs that mesothelioma tumors typically affect.
Time will allow AI and 3D bioprinting to progress further, but even now AI is reliable as a resource for doctors. 3D bioprinting is also breaking into the medical regime and becoming more accepted. These recent contributions propel technology’s potentials into unknown territory. Healthcare encompasses a vast community of needs, and as these are fresh, there is hope for even more.
Written by Hailee Claycomb