Science, medicine, and technology go hand-in-hand to produce path-breaking results. It seems like just yesterday when researchers were talking about regenerative medicine and stem cells to treat diseases. The same holds true for artificial intelligence (AI) as well. Today though, we are seeing an amalgamation of these sciences that is propelling research to newer heights.
The word AI is quite daunting. Thankfully, not all of us need to learn the theory of it! In extremely simple terms, AI is about programming computers to 'learn' in a manner similar to human beings. Hence, it is sometimes called machine learning. Take the example of the new gadgets we have these days Alexa, Google Home, etc. These are taught to respond to our habits and preferences based on past commands. In the field of medicine, AI can be used to optimize screening and diagnostic tools, treatments, create databases for patient records, etc.
Talking about regenerative medicine, this branch is about enhancing the innate healing ability of the body through stem cells, growth factors, peptides, etc. This field of medicine is equally new but is showing tremendous potential in the treatment of various diseases. You would have definitely heard of cord blood banking, which involves storing stem cells from the umbilical cord of newborn babies.
Combining Artificial Intelligence And Regenerative Medicine
Researchers are now studying the different properties of stem cells how they function in the human body, what are the different possibilities of bringing them into clinical practice, etc. Here, AI can be of help. The technology can be used to predict the behaviour of cells in different environments sort of like simulating the human environment with technology. Through this, we would be able to gain more in-depth information rapidly, which would then help in faster translation of regenerative medicine therapies into clinical practice.
Another possible combination use of the two technologies is in 3D printing of organs. We have heard of the global shortage of organ donors. Several patients die after waiting for several years for a kidney, heart, or liver! Identifying the materials to be used for artificial organs, understanding the anatomic challenges during the treatment, designing the organ, etc. all can be made possible through AI algorithms. Here, stem cells can be used along with other biological materials to grow functional 3D-printed organs. We could soon have a day when pacemakers would be things of the past we might be able to have a 3D-printed heart with blood vessels and muscles that actually beats!
In the field of diagnostics, AI and stem cell research can be combined to create models of various diseases to study the disturbances in the organs and possibly identify subtle changes that would enable early diagnosis and treatment. Think about being able to identify Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease at an early stage it will then be possible to initiate treatment early and help the patients be independent for a longer time.
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Many researchers are already working on AI and machine learning algorithms in the field of neurological, respiratory diseases, etc. by which patterns of the disease are being recognized and categorized for diagnosis and personalized treatment.
Four Areas Of Regenerative Medicine Where AI Can Be Of Help
The possibilities are endless and we are just beginning to explore it all it might sound like a fairy tale for now, but the technologies are advancing rapidly. A study has identified four areas in the field of regenerative medicine where AI would be of significant help cell manufacturing and scaling for allogeneic and autologous cell therapies, developing industry standards for regenerative medicine, 3D bioprinting, and automation.
While nothing can replace the supreme human brain, machines can help fast track the advances, which is the need of the hour in the field of medicine especially!
The article is contributed by Dr. Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative Medicine Researcher, StemRx Bioscience Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai.