Under a cross-disciplinary program spearheaded by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), scientists from MESA+, among others, will develop an AI-based system that can predict whether Covid-19 patients will develop severe cardiovascular complications. In the longer term these systems can detect the likely onset of inflammatory disease.
EPFL has launched a pan-European research program called Digipredict. The goal is to develop a digital twin that can detect serious complications in Covid-19 patients, employing breakthrough technology in the fields of artificial intelligence, smart patches and organs-on-chips. The initiative brings together around a dozen partner organizations (universities, hospitals and startups), including MESA+.
Digital twins are digital replicas of an object, process or system – and in this case: a patient. They are used in design and to better understand how the system will behave over its lifecycle. Digital twins stand to revolutionize healthcare in the 21st century, paving the way to more personalized, preventive and participative treatment options that support a shift from reactive to proactive healthcare.
The Digipredict digital twin will consist of a smart patch with integrated technology for collecting a range of medical data, such as blood oxygen levels, breathing rate and body temperature. The patches will also include nanosensors linked to an artificial intelligence program in order to continually track specific biomarkers that indicate a cytokine storm may be brewing. These biomarkers, located in a patient’s interstitial fluid, give an indication of the trajectory that the disease will follow. “Our digital twin will use organ-on-chip technology to select the right biomarker combination for generating an accurate picture of how the disease is progressing in a patient and how well the chosen treatments are working,” says Albert van den Berg, professor at the University of Twente and member of the Digipredict team.
In addition to EPFL, the other partner organizations are: ETH Zurich, IMEC in Belgium, Stichting Imec in the Netherlands, the Charité university hospital in Berlin, the University of Bern (through Inselspital), and three startups (Ascilion, EPOS-IASIS and SCIPROM). These organizations have agreed to pool their knowledge to develop the first digital twin for Covid-19 patients. It will be tested at the two university hospitals involved in the program. Involved MESA+ researchers are Albert van den Berg, Robert Passier, Loes Segerink, Andries van der Meer, Mathieu Odijk and Berend van Meer, all members of the new Organ-On-Chip Centre Twente that launched in October 2020.