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News & Events July 5, 2024

Transforming heart care—WA researchers secure $2.99M grant for AI-driven health digitisation

WA Researchers led by Professor Girish Dwivedi from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University of Western Australia (UWA) will establish a national database of Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA) images to train an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to help identify patients at risk of heart attacks before they show symptoms.

Prof Dwivedi leads a group that has secured a significant research grant from Australia’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) under the 2023 National Critical Infrastructure Initiative—Digitisation of health care. They are among the 10 recipients nationwide, representing Western Australia as the sole grant awardee from the state.

This ambitious $3.3 million project, partly funded by a $2,998,918 grant aims to integrate AI into cardiovascular disease diagnostics.

Collaborating with medical technology company partners including Artrya Ltd and national and international institutions including the University of Sydney, South Metro Health Services and the University of Edinburgh, the Perkins and UWA spearheaded the successful grant application. This funding will establish the National Australian Cardiac Computed Tomography platform for Automated reporting and Research (NACTAR), a pioneering initiative aiming to create a consortium of leading Australian Cardiac CT institutions.

Prof Dwivedi, Chief Investigator and Head of the Perkins Cardiovascular and Diabetes Program at UWA, said the project will aggregate cardiac CT images from top Australian institutions. This extensive dataset will empower AI to enhance detection and characterisation of cardiac abnormalities, advancing heart research nationwide.

Leading the AI training efforts is Winthrop Professor Mohammed Bennamoun from UWA’s School of Physics, Mathematics and Computing, Computer Science and Software Engineering.

Prof Dwivedi highlighted the transformative potential of AI in pre-emptive healthcare:

“Cardiac CT provides detailed 3D views of heart arteries critical for assessing blood flow and detecting heart disease. Surprisingly, around two-thirds of heart attacks occur in patients with less than 50% artery blockage, often showing no symptoms. AI holds promise to significantly enhance risk prediction in asymptomatic patients.”

Co-investigator Dr Abdul Ihdayhid, a Perkins and Curtin University researcher, emphasized the broader impact beyond urban centres:

“This initiative will benefit nationwide departments of cardiology and radiology, particularly in regional areas currently underserved by cardiac CT capabilities.”

The project aims to democratise advanced heart care, leveraging collective expertise and AI advancements to improve clinical outcomes across Australia.

Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death globally, and Australia’s number 1 killer. One Australian dies every 12 minutes from cardiovascular disease.