A new way of assessing the quality of potential organ donations could be set to revolutionise the transplant system, saving hundreds of lives and tens of millions of pounds.
Working in a similar way to how facial recognition software uses artificial intelligence (AI), the innovation evaluates the quality of an organ to give clinicians faster answers on whether a specific donation is eligible for a transplant.
Health leaders believe the Organ Quality Assessment (OrQA) tool could help as many as 200 more patients get kidney transplants and support up to 100 more people get liver replacements every single year in the UK.
Director of the University of Bradford’s Centre for Visual Computing, Professor Hassan Ugail, explained how the technology works, saying: “Currently, when an organ becomes available, it is assessed by a surgical team by sight, which means, occasionally, organs will be deemed not suitable for transplant.
“We are developing a deep machine learning algorithm which will be trained using thousands of images of human organs to assess images of donor organs more effectively than what the human eye can see.
“This will ultimately mean a surgeon could take a photo of the donated organ, upload it to OrQA and get an immediate answer as to how best to use the donated organ.”
Considering an organ can only survive out of the body for a limited amount of time and the fact that there are around 7,000 patients on the organ transplant waiting list in the UK, it is imperative a correct and timely decision can be made on the viability of an organ.
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has contributed approximately £1m to support the development of the technology.
NIHR Chief Executive, Professor Lucy Chappell, said: "Funded by our Invention for Innovation Programme, this deep machine learning algorithm aims to increase the number of liver and kidney donor organs suitable for transplantation.
“This is another example of how AI can enhance our healthcare system and make it more efficient. Once clinically validated and tested, cutting edge technology such as this holds the real promise of saving and improving lives."
According to the NIHR, it is hoped OrQA will be eligible for a licensing study within the health service in the next two years, with further aspirations noted on the possibility of marketing the technology globally.