April 26, 2022 – Deaths from COVID-19 may have caught more attention lately, but heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S.
These events happen suddenly and often without warning, making them nearly impossible to predict. But that may be changing, thanks to 3D imaging and artificial intelligence (AI) technology under study at Johns Hopkins University.
There, researchers are working to create more accurate and personalized models of the heart – and not just any heart, your heart, if you have heart disease.
“Right now, a clinician can only say whether a patient is at risk or not at risk for sudden death,” says Dan Popescu, PhD, a Johns Hopkins research scientist and first author of a new study on AI’s ability to predict sudden cardiac arrest. “With this new technology, you can have much more nuanced predictions of probability of an event over time.”
Put another way: With AI, clinicians may be able not only to predict if someone is at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, but also when it is most likely to happen. They can do this using a much clearer and more personalized look at the electrical “wiring” of your heart.
Your Heart, the Conductor
Your heart isn’t just a metronome responsible for keeping a steady stream of blood pumping to tissues with every beat. It’s also a conductor through which vital energy flows.
To make the heart beat, electrical impulses flow from the top to the bottom of the organ. Healthy heart cells relay this electricity seamlessly. But in a heart damaged by inflammation or a past heart attack, scar tissue will block the energy flow.
When an electrical impulse encounters a scarred area, the signal can become erratic, disrupting the set top-to-bottom path and causing irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), which increase someone’s danger of sudden cardiac death.
Seeing the Heart in 3D
Today’s tests offer some insights into the heart’s makeup. For example, MRI scans can reveal damaged areas. PET scans can show inflammation. And EKGs can record the heart’s electrical signals from beat to beat.
But all these technologies offer only a snapshot, showing heart health at a moment in time. They can’t predict the future. That’s why scientists at Johns Hopkins are going further to develop 3D digital replicas of a person’s heart, known as computational heart models.
Computational models are computer-simulated replicas that combine mathematics, physics, and computer science. These models have been around for a long time and are used in many fields, ranging from manufacturing to economics.
In heart medicine, these models are populated with digital “cells,” which imitate living cells and can be programmed with different electrical properties, depending on whether they are healthy or diseased.
“Currently available imaging and testing (MRIs, PETs, EKGs) give some representation of the scarring, but you cannot translate that to what is going to happen over time,” says Natalia Trayanova, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering.
“With computational heart models, we create a dynamic digital image of the heart. We can then give the digital image an electrical stimulus and assess how the heart is able to respond. Then you can better predict what is going to happen.”
The computerized 3D models also mean better, more accurate treatment for heart conditions.
For example, a common treatment for a type of arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation is ablation, or burning some heart tissue. Ablation stops the erratic electrical impulses causing the arrhythmia, but it can also damage otherwise healthy heart cells.
A personalized computational heart model could allow doctors to see more accurately what areas should and shouldn’t be treated for a specific patient.
Using Deep Learning AI to Predict Health Outcomes
Trayanova’s colleague Popescu is applying deep learning and AI to do more with computerized heart models to predict the future.
In a recent paper in Nature Cardiovascular Research, the research team showed their algorithm assessed the health of 269 patients and was able to predict the chance of sudden cardiac arrest up to 10 years in advance.
“This is really the first time ever, as far as we know, where deep learning technology has been proven to analyze scarring of the heart in a successful way,” Popescu says.
Popescu and Trayanova say the AI algorithm gathers information from the 3D computational heart models with patient data like MRIs, ethnicity, age, lifestyle, and other clinical information. Analyzing all this data can produce accurate and consistent estimates about how long patients might live if they are at risk for sudden death.
“You can’t afford to be wrong. If you are wrong, you can actually impact a patient’s quality of life dramatically,” Popescu says. “Having clinicians use this technology in the decision-making process will provide confidence in a better diagnosis and prognosis.”
While the current study was specifically about patients with a particular type of heart disease, Popescu says his algorithm can also be trained to assess other health conditions.
So when might you see this being used outside of a research study? Trayanova predicts 3D imaging of heart models could be available in 2 years, but first the technique must be tested in more clinical trials – some of which are happening right now.
Adding AI to the heart models will require more studies and FDA approval, so the timeline is less clear. But perhaps the biggest hurdle is that after approval, the technologies would need to be adopted and used by clinicians and caregivers.
“The much harder question to answer is, ‘When will doctors be perfectly comfortable with AI tools?’ And I don’t know the answer,” Popescu says. “How to use AI as an aid in the decision-making process is something that’s not currently taught.”
Original Post: webmd.com
Congress Under Pressure: Colorado Officials Push for Cannabis Banking Reform
With the end of Congress’ session just around the corner, marijuana advocates, stakeholders and lawmakers continue to push for marijuana banking policy change.
This time, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) joined forces with Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera (D), Attorney General Phil Weiser (D), Treasurer Dave Young (D) and Department of Public Safety (DPS) Executive Director Stan Hilkey in urging congressional leaders to revisit the issue, reported Marijuana Moment.
In a letter sent on Monday to both House and Senate leaders, Colorado officials focused on the impact which a bipartisan marijuana banking bill will have in terms of public safety and industry equity,
“The lack of safe banking and financial services for the cannabis industry in the State of Colorado has become a dire public safety issue for highly regulated cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state …
Original Post: benzinga.com
New Data Shows Weed Legalization a Boon for Real Estate, New Jobs and Tax Revenue
A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank shed light on the economic impact marijuana legalization has had in recent years, reported Marijuana Moment. Policy changes on the state level have resulted in increased commercial real estate demand, as well as a surge in tax revenues while creating more jobs.
According to an analysis from the Kansas City arm of the Central Bank, which collected data from several states under its jurisdiction, the Tenth Federal Reserve District, the cannabis industry has become one of the main economic sectors positioned to grow substantially in the coming period.
“Overall, the marijuana industry has had a significant effect on the economies of Tenth District states in the initial years after legalization,” the report said. “The emergence of the industry has …
Will Missouri Legalize Cannabis? Amendment 3 Suffers Another Attack This Time by State NAACP
Cannabis legalization efforts in Missouri are under attack once again, this time by The Missouri State Conference of the NAACP.
The Missouri NAACP, breaking with chapters in the St. Louis area is urging its members to vote against Amendment 3 on the Nov. 8 ballot, reported the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.
The group announced Thursday that it believes recreational marijuana legalization, as it is proposed under Amendment 3, would prevent minorities from entering the cannabis industry.
“Marijuana possession should not be a constitutional crime. Additionally, for years now, Black people, other minorities, and people who have been criminalized by marijuana laws in the past have been unable to enter the medical marijuana market,” the Missouri NAACP wrote. “That is not right. In an effort to prevent the permanent exclusion of minorities from the cannabis industry in the state of Missouri, the NAACP calls upon every voter to reject the criminalization of marijuana possession, de facto racist regulation of the cannabis market, and the wool being pulled over our eyes by the supporters of Amendment 3.”
Under Amendment 3, the first “comprehensive” cannabis business licenses would be provided to existing medical marijuana companies.
The state’s chapter highlighted that the amendment “does not increase the number of available full market licenses” and claims that giving “micro” business licenses to disadvantaged groups makes a “very limited” program.
According to Nimrod “Rod” Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri NAACP, members agreed last week …
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