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AI may automate diagnosis of lupus nephritis: Report

IANS Feb 10, 2024

With research being undertaken in the US to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to diagnose lupus nephritis (LN), there is a possibility of automating the detection of the disease, according to a report on 8 Feb.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune that can affect multiple major organ systems in the body. One of its most severe manifestations is renal (kidney) involvement, known as LN.

Although LN can be detected via blood or urine tests, a kidney biopsy is considered the most precise diagnostic approach. However, there are challenges in interpreting biopsy reports due to discrepancies in pathologists' interpretations.

The report by GlobalData, a data and analytics company, detailed research efforts to automate the diagnosis of LN using AI.

Specifically, the research team intends to build a dedicated computer vision pipeline for classifying LN through the analysis of histopathology imaging data using machine learning (ML).

Collaborating closely with renal pathologists, including experts from various institutions worldwide, the UH team aims to establish a computer-aided diagnosis system for LN, providing clinical decision support akin to renal pathologists.

The application of AI in the LN space was also researched in the past to assess the treatment responses to the disease.

In 2021, a team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) introduced a pioneering ML algorithm tailored to forecast treatment responses in individuals with LN.

This innovative model incorporated seven key disease indicators to predict the probability of a patient's response to therapy within a year and showed promising outcomes.

"As the prevalence of chronic diseases, such as LN, increases, so does the strain on the healthcare system. Due to multiple comorbidities associated with immunosuppressive treatment (e.g., infections, osteoporosis, cardiovascular (CV), and reproductive issues), LN patients often need other healthcare specialists," said Sravani Meka, Senior Immunology Analyst at GlobalData, in a statement.

Given the broad multidisciplinary team required to effectively treat patients with LN and the increasing shortage of speciality doctors, it is not practical to assume that specialists, particularly rheumatologists and nephrologists, can keep up with the increasing volume of LN patients.

However, it is possible that ML, a branch of AI, may prove to be a useful tool for improving medical diagnoses and alleviating the burden on the healthcare system.

"As the AI programme remains in its early development stages, it is not yet ready to be applied to the wider SLE population. Furthermore, as ML is still in its early adoption stages, not only in healthcare but in other industries, it remains to be seen when and how AI programs such as this one will be used more widely to deliver precise diagnoses, streamline clinical processes, reduce healthcare-related costs and the burden faced by specialists, and ultimately save lives," Meka said.

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