Heart technology concept

AI tool helps pick the perfect organs for transplant

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Artificial intelligence (AI) can pick donor organs for transplant with much greater accuracy than humans, experts have said.

A project that uses AI to help match organ donors with recipients has received £1m in funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). 

The new method uses AI and its "memory" of tens of thousands of images of donor organs to identify those that offer the best chance of transplant success. 

Currently, surgeons examine donor organs and assess their suitability. However, using AI for this process could help NHS surgeons perform 300 more transplant surgeries every year, experts have said.

The team behind the technology, known as OrQA – 'Organ Quality Assessment' – said it could result in up to 200 more patients receiving kidney transplants and 100 more receiving liver transplants every year in the UK.

“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," Professor Hassan Ugail told PA Media. 

“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.”

The tool looks for damage, pre-existing conditions and how well blood has been flushed out of the organ.

The project is being backed by ministers, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit.

“We at NHSBT are extremely committed to making this exciting venture a success,” said Professor Derek Manas, the organ donation and transplantation medical director of NHSBT.

“This is an exciting development in technological infrastructure that, once validated, will enable surgeons and transplant clinicians to make more informed decisions about organ usage and help to close the gap between those patients waiting for, and those receiving, lifesaving organs.”

Health minister Neil O’Brien said: “Technology has the ability to revolutionise the way we care for people and this cutting-edge technology will improve organ transplant services.

“Developed here in the UK, this pioneering new method could save hundreds of lives and ensure the best use of donated organs.

“I encourage everyone to register their organ donation decision. Share it with your family so your loved ones can follow your wishes and hopefully save others.”

Currently, NHSBT has almost 7,000 people in the UK on its waiting list for a transplant, which could benefit from the use of this technology. 

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