Tisch researchers team with Deloitte to bring AI to bear on MS

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Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York is using artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science to find patterns that may relate to the cause of the disease.

The disease affects more than 2.3 million individuals, and while researchers make progress in understanding MS, the cause remains unknown. However, research techniques are improving thanks to data science and technology, says Saud Sadiq, MD, director and chief research scientist at Tisch.

The research center is getting help from Deloitte, Sadiq adds. “Given the complexity of MS and the urgent need to help patients living with this diagnosis, we wanted to explore new ways to infuse technology into our research. We met with Deloitte and discussed the possibility of applying tools like AI and machine learning to narrow down molecules that may be correlated to MS, as well as accelerate the discovery process.”

In the first phase of collaboration, Deloitte identified two opportunities to accelerate research through data science. The vendor helped analyze metabolic markers in cerebrospinal fluid to identify metabolites associated with MS, and within two weeks a team was able to identify molecules likely to be correlated to MS, a task that done manually by humans could have taken a decade to complete.

Subsequent phases analyzed B-cells and antibodies to better understand disease causation using a crowdsourcing approach, and holding a hack-a-thon competition that resulted in applying artificial intelligence to further analyze associated immunoglobulin sequences and B-cell subtypes.

“AI and machine learning are increasingly being leveraged to solve medical puzzles where human research has encountered challenges,” says Beena Ammanath, managing director of AI at Deloitte. “Data science is helping organizations find solutions to problems that have yet to be answered through traditional tactics.”

Sadiq notes that by using AI as part of the project, the team was able to uncover new insights and a suggested unsuspected association between a subset of cells called plasmablasts and patients with primary progressive MS. “In the future, we are looking at new possibilities of AI analysis with Deloitte to help advance research,” he concludes.

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