Together with Missouri S&T, Saint Louis University Researchers Use Artificial Intelligence to Improve Kidney Transplant Process : SLU

ST. LOUIS, MO (11/18/2022) — With a new grant that brings together engineering expertise
from Missouri S&T and medical expertise from Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine,
researchers are investigating how artificial intelligence (AI) can support matchmaking
between donated kidneys and transplant centers to help more patients in need. 

Thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to lead
site Missouri S&T, experts in AI and organ transplantation will work to ensure that
more kidneys are able to be used by patients who urgently 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., professor of surgery at SLU’s School of Medicine, says using
AI tools to facilitate organ utilization is new. Currently, the work processes are
very human-intensive. 

“The big objective is to facilitate increased utilization of organs,” Schnitzler said.
“Many organs from deceased donors go unused for a variety of reasons.  We want to
use more of them.  For patients, that would reduce the shortage of organs, increasing
overall life expectancy and quality of life of people who need them.

A cropped photo of Dr. Henry Randall.

Henry Randall, M.D. 

Schnitzler will join SLU colleagues Henry Randall, M.D., professor of surgery, and Krista Lentine, M.D., 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 concerning data, clinical, and ethical aspects of organ allocation
and transplantation.

Randall says the tool will help surgeons and Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs)
make data-driven decisions on organ acceptance.

“Greater incorporation of decision support tools like the one we are developing will
help health care providers become more efficient in our workflows and daily processes,”
Randall said, who also serves as executive director at SLUCare Transplant Center and
abdominal transplant division chief at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.
“Also, we are helping to define the characteristics of the algorithms used.”

A cropped photo of Dr. Krista Lentine

Krista Lentine, M.D., Ph.D.

Lentine thanks collaborator Mid-America Transplant, a local organ procurement organization.
In particular, she acknowledges Gary Marklin, M.D., chief medical officer, and Richard
Rothweiler, director of organ utilization, who generously volunteered support.

Randall, Schnitzler, Eberl, and Lentine all believe this tool has the potential to
change the future of medicine.

“Doctors, clinicians, and humans faced with identical information but at different
times frequently make different choices, even though the situation isn’t different.
An organ used on one day might be discarded on a different day even if it’s identical,
even if the potential recipients are identical,” Schnitzler said. “Faced with the
same data, AI tools will give the same answer.  I don’t think it replaces the clinician,
but it can give them a reference, a benchmark, and they can make decisions with that
additional knowledge.”

About Saint Louis University School of Medicine 

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction
of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates
physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health
care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new
cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer,
heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.

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