Computer that predicts illness in development at Erasmus, TU Delft
Wiro Niessen, professor of Medical Imaging at Erasmus MC and TU Delft, is working on developing a computer system that can see the future - or at least predict future illnesses in individuals long before they actually get sick, NOS reports. The computer knows whether or not someone will become ill based on tens of thousands of MRI- and CT scans. An MRI scan, for example, shows different aspects of the brain. "If you follow people for five to en years and they start having memory problems or Alzheimer's, then we go back to see if there were something on the scans a few years ago", Niessen explained to the broadcaster. If you manage to build up the database large enough, by collecting a lot of scans of healthy and unhealthy brains, the computer could recognize indicators of certain diseases before symptoms appear. With his futuristic computer system, Niessen is currently focusing on predicting cardiovascular diseases and neuro-degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. But he hopes to expand the predictive computer system to also include other conditions in the future. With this predictive computer, healthcare can gain insight into the progression of disease processes. This could be extremely advantageous to patients, according to Niessen. "The sooner we identify the disease, the better we can predict the disease progression. The you can adjust the treatment." he said to NOS. This doesn't only mean earlier or more treatment, but also less treatment as you can exclude people. Niessen does not believe that the computer will completely replace doctors, but could take over a large number of their tasks. "We can give doctors the tools do do their jobs better. Maybe that means that fewer doctors will be needed in the future. But speaking with the patient is restricted to the doctor. The human side of health care should not disappear." This system won Niessen the Simon Stevin Meester prize for making a major contribution to the development of medical image analysis. The prize comes with 500 thousand euros, which Niessen will use on research on combining his analysis of the scans with genetic information - DNA. "Whether you get a certain disease is a combination of predisposition, lifestyle and environmental factors." Niessen explained. "I want to better predict how a disease will act, this you do with DNA."