ST. LOUIS, MO — With a new grant that brings together technical expertise from Missouri S&T and medical expertise from Saint Louis University School of Medicine, researchers are investigating how artificial intelligence (AI) can help matchmaking between donated kidneys and transplant centers to do more patients need to help.
Thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to lead site Missouri S&T, experts in AI and organ transplants will work to ensure more kidneys can be used by patients who desperately need them.
The project is being led by Casey Canfield, Ph.D., assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering at Missouri S&T, and the research is being conducted in partnership with the United Network for Organ Sharing and SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, which has a transplant center.
Mark Schnitzler, Ph.D., a professor of surgery at SLU’s School of Medicine, says using AI tools to facilitate organ use is new. Currently, the work processes are very personnel-intensive.
“The big goal is to enable increased use of organs,” said Schnitzler. “Many organs from deceased donors go unused for a variety of reasons. We want to use more of it. For the patients, this would reduce the shortage of organs and increase the overall life expectancy and quality of life of the people who need them.
Schnitzler will join SLU colleagues Henry Randall, MD, Professor of Surgery, and Krista Lentine, MD, Ph.D., Associate Division Director of Nephrology and Medical Director of Living Donation at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, and Jason Eberl, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics to provide technical knowledge on data, clinical and ethical aspects of organ allocation and transplantation.
According to Randall, the tool will help surgeons and organ procurement organizations (OPOs) make data-driven decisions about organ acceptance.
“More incorporation of decision support tools like the ones we are developing will help healthcare providers make our workflows and daily processes more efficient,” said Randall, who also serves as executive director of the SLUCare Transplant Center and head of the abdominal transplant unit at SSM Health functions Saint Louis University Hospital. “We also help to define the properties of the algorithms used.”
Lentine thanks fellow Mid-America Transplant, a local organ procurement organization. Special thanks to Gary Marklin, MD, Chief Medical Officer, and Richard Rothweiler, Director of Organ Utilization, who have generously volunteered their support.
Randall, Schnitzler, Eberl, and Lentine all believe this tool has the potential to transform the future of medicine.
“However, doctors, clinicians and people faced with identical information often make different decisions at different times, even though the situation is no different. An organ used one day can be discarded another day, even if it’s identical, even if the potential recipients are identical,” said Schnitzler. “Given the same data, AI tools will give the same answer. I don’t think it replaces the doctor, but it can give them a reference, a benchmark and they can make decisions with that extra knowledge.”
About Saint Louis University
Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions in the nation. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi, SLU offers more than 13,500 students a rigorous, transformative whole-person education. Central to the university’s diverse scholarly community is SLU’s service-oriented mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better and fairer place.
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