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NIH launches Bridge2AI program to expand the use of artificial intelligence in biomedical and behavioral research – National Institutes of Health (.gov)

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News Release

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The National Institutes of Health will invest $130 million over four years, pending the availability of funds, to accelerate the widespread use of artificial intelligence (AI) by the biomedical and behavioral research communities. The NIH Common Fund’s Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI) program is assembling team members from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to generate tools, resources, and richly detailed data that are responsive to AI approaches. At the same time, the program will ensure its tools and data do not perpetuate inequities or ethical problems that may occur during data collection and analysis. Through extensive collaboration across projects, Bridge2AI researchers will create guidance and standards for the development of ethically sourced, state-of-the-art, AI-ready data sets that have the potential to help solve some of the most pressing challenges in human health — such as uncovering how genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors influence a person’s physical condition throughout their life. 

“Generating high-quality ethically sourced data sets is crucial for enabling the use of next-generation AI technologies that transform how we do research,” said Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., Performing the Duties of the Director of NIH. “The solutions to long-standing challenges in human health are at our fingertips, and now is the time to connect researchers and AI technologies to tackle our most difficult research questions and ultimately help improve human health.”

AI is both a field of science and a set of technologies that enable computers to mimic how humans sense, learn, reason, and take action. Although AI is already used in biomedical research and healthcare, its widespread adoption has been limited in part due to challenges of applying AI technologies to diverse data types. This is because routinely collected biomedical and behavioral data sets are often insufficient, meaning they lack important contextual information about the data type, collection conditions, or other parameters. Without this information, AI technologies cannot accurately analyze and interpret data. AI technologies may also inadvertently incorporate bias or inequities unless careful attention is paid to the social and ethical contexts in which the data is collected. In order to harness the power of AI for biomedical discovery and accelerate its use, scientists first need well-described and ethically created data sets, standards, and best practices for generating biomedical and behavioral data that is ready for AI analyses.

As it creates tools and best practices for making data AI-ready, Bridge2AI will also produce a variety of diverse data types ready to be used by the research community for AI analyses. These types include voice and other data to help identify abnormal changes in the body. Researchers will also generate data that can be used to make new connections between complex genetic pathways and changes in cell shape or function to better understand how they work together to influence health. In addition, AI-ready data will be prepared to help improve decision making in critical care settings to speed recovery from acute illnesses and to help uncover the complex biological processes underlying an individual’s recovery from illness.

The Bridge2AI program is committed to fostering the formation of research teams richly diverse in perspectives, backgrounds, and academic and technical disciplines. Diversity is fundamental to the ethical generation of data sets, and for training future AI technologies to reduce bias and improve effectiveness for all populations, including those who are underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral research. Bridge2AI will develop ethical practices for data generation and use, addressing key issues such as privacy, data trustworthiness, and reducing bias.

NIH has issued four awards for data generation projects, and three awards to create a Bridge Center for integration, dissemination and evaluation activities. The data generation projects will generate new biomedical and behavioral data sets ready to be used for developing AI technologies, along with creating data standards and tools for ensuring data are findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable, a principle known as FAIR. In addition, data generation projects will develop training materials that promote a culture of diversity and the use of ethical practices throughout the data generation process. The Bridge Center will be responsible for integrating activities and knowledge across data generation projects, and disseminating products, best-practices, and training materials.

The Bridge2AI program is an NIH-wide effort managed collaboratively by the NIH Common Fund, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the National Eye Institute, the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and the National Library of Medicine. To learn more about the Bridge2AI program, visit the Musings from the Mezzanine blog from the National Library of Medicine, and watch this video about the Bridge2AI program.

About the NIH Common Fund: The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives within the NIH Office of the Director in partnership with the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices. More information is available at the Common Fund website: https://commonfund.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

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'Similar strategy' needed for global CVD prevention in men, women: PURE – Healio

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September 23, 2022

2 min read

Disclosures:
One author reports receiving speaker and consultant fees from Bayer and Janssen for work unrelated to this study. Walli-Attaei and the other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

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The magnitude of associations with major CVD for most risk factors are similar in women and men, despite sex differences in risk factor levels, according to an analysis of the PURE study.

In a comprehensive overview of the prevalence of metabolic, behavioral and psychosocial risk factors for CVD in women and men globally, researchers also found that diet was more strongly associated with CVD in women than in men. However, high concentrations of non-HDL and related lipids and symptoms of depression were more strongly associated with risk for CVD in men than in women. Patterns remained consistent across countries regardless of income level.

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Source: Adobe Stock

“Existing studies, mostly from high-income countries, have reported that hypertension, diabetes, and smoking are more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease in women than in men,” Marjan Walli-Attaei, PhD, a research fellow at the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, and colleagues wrote in The Lancet. “Such findings would imply that women would benefit to a greater extent in reducing cardiovascular disease risk from control of these risk factors than would men. However, the burden of cardiovascular disease is greatest in low-income and middle-income countries, for which prospective data on the association of risk factors with cardiovascular disease are sparse, with a paucity of analysis by sex.”

Marjan Walli-Attaei

Walli-Attaei and colleagues analyzed data from 155,724 adults aged 35 to 70 years at baseline without a history of CVD enrolled in the PURE study, which included participants from 21 high-, middle- and low-income countries, and followed them for approximately 10 years (58% women; mean baseline age, 50 years). Researchers recorded information on participants’ metabolic, behavioral and psychosocial risk factors; all participants had at least one follow-up visit. The primary outcome was a composite of major CV events, defined as CV death, MI, stroke and HF. Researchers reported the prevalence of each risk factor in women and men, HRs and population-attributable fractions associated with major CVD.

As of the data cutoff of Sept. 13, 2021, researchers observed 4,280 major CVD events in women (age-standardized incidence rate, 5 events per 1,000 person-years) and 4,911 in men (age-standardized incidence rate, 8.2 per 1,000 person-years).

Compared with men, women presented with a more favorable CV risk profile, especially at younger ages. HRs for metabolic risk factors were similar in women and men, except for non-HDL, for which high non-HDL was associated with an HR for major CVD of 1.11 in women (95% CI, 1.01-1.21) and 1.28 in men (95% CI, 1.19-1.39; P for interaction = .0037), with a consistent pattern for higher risk among men than women with other lipid markers.

Researchers also observed that maintaining a diet with a PURE score of 4 or lower (score range, 0-8) was more strongly associated with major CVD in women than in men, with HRs of 1.17 (95% CI, 1.08-1.26) and 1.07 (95% CI, 0.99-1.15; P for interaction = .0065), respectively.

In contrast, symptoms of depression were more strongly associated with CVD in men than in women, with the HRs for symptoms of depression being higher in men than in women (P for interaction = .0002). “The HRs of other behavioral and psychosocial risk factors, as well as grip strength and household air pollution, were similar among women and men,” the researchers wrote.

The total population-attributable fractions associated with behavioral and psychosocial risk factors were greater in men than in women (15.7% vs. 8.4%) mostly due to the larger contribution of smoking to population-attributable fractions in men (10.7%) vs. women (1.3%).

“Our results emphasize the importance of a similar strategy for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in both sexes,” the researchers wrote. “However, the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in men might be substantially attenuated with better reductions in tobacco use and lipid concentrations.”

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Blood Clot Risk Remains Higher Almost a Year After COVID – The Suburban Newspaper

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FRIDAY, Sept. 23, 2022 (HealthDay News) — An increased risk of blood clots persists for close to a year after a COVID-19 infection, a large study shows.

The health records of 48 million unvaccinated adults in the United Kingdom suggest that the pandemic’s first wave in 2020 may have led to an additional 10,500 cases of heart attack, stroke and other blood clot complications such as deep vein thrombosis, in England and Wales alone.

The risk of blood clots continues for at least 49 weeks after infection, the study found.

“We have shown that even people who were not hospitalized faced a higher risk of blood clots in the first wave,” said study co-leader Angela Wood, associate director of the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre.

“While the risk to individuals remains small, the effect on the public’s health could be substantial and strategies to prevent vascular events will be important as we continue through the pandemic,” Wood said in a news release from Health Data Research UK, which sponsors the center.

Researchers found that the risks did lessen over time.

Patients were 21 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the week after their COVID diagnosis. After four weeks, the risk was 3.9 times greater than usual.

Heart attacks and strokes are mainly caused by blood clots blocking arteries.

The risk of clots in veins was 33 times greater in the week after COVID diagnosis, dropping to eight times greater after four weeks. Conditions caused by these clots include deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

By 26 to 49 weeks after a COVID diagnosis, the risk dropped to 1.3 times more likely for clots in arteries and 1.8 times more likely for clots in veins, the study showed.

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While people who were not hospitalized had a lower risk, it was not zero, the study found.

Overall, individual risk remains low, the authors said. Men over 80 years of age are at highest risk.

“We are reassured that the risk drops quite quickly — particularly for heart attacks and strokes — but the finding that it remains elevated for some time highlights the longer-term effects of COVID-19 that we are only beginning to understand,” said study co-leader Jonathan Sterne, director of the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Center and of Health Data Research UK South West.

The authors said steps such as giving high-risk patients blood pressure-lowering medication could help reduce cases of serious clots.

Researchers are now studying newer data to understand how vaccination and the impact of new COVID variants may affect blood clotting risks.

The findings were recently published in the journal Circulation.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on blood clots.

SOURCE: Health Data Research UK, news release, Sept. 20, 2022

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MPs, Senators debate requirements for medically assisted dying with mental disorders

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OTTAWA — An expert told a special joint committee of the House of Commons and Senate that people with mental disorders can suffer for decades, and their distress is equally as valid as someone suffering physical pain.

People suffering solely from mental disorders are due to become eligible for assisted dying in March, and Dr. Justine Dembo, a psychiatrist and medical assistance in dying assessor, also cautioned the committee about perpetuating stigma about mental illness.

Mental health advocates warn it is harder to predict the outcomes and treatments of mental illnesses, and a wish to die is often a symptom, but an expert panel earlier this year said existing eligibility criteria and safeguards in medically assisted dying legislation would be adequate.

Both arguments were made today by a handful of witnesses appearing before the committee, which is deliberating what policies to recommend to lawmakers ahead of the March deadline.

Ellen Cohen, a coordinator advocate for the National Mental Health Inclusion Network, told committee members Canada needs laws to help patients, not hurt them.

“I don’t believe there were any safeguards recommended,” she said.

She resigned from the federal government’s expert panel on MAID and mental illness in December 2021. She said there was no space to identify how vulnerable people could be protected.

The panel released its report May 13, concluding that existing eligibility criteria and safeguards would be adequate “so long as those are interpreted appropriately to take into consideration the specificity of mental disorders.”

Dembo, who was one of the expert panel members, said following those guidelines for people with mental disorders “would ensure an extremely comprehensive, thorough and cautious approach.”

She told the committee people with mental disorders can suffer for decades.

“To say someone with mental illness just shouldn’t be eligible, with that big of a blanket statement, where people don’t even get the chance to be assessed as individuals unique in their circumstances, to me is very stigmatizing,” she said.

While the interim report released earlier this year stops short of making recommendations of its own,  it concludes by urging the government to take steps to implement the recommendations of the expert panel “in a timely matter.”

A final report from the committee, complete with recommendations that address other areas including access for mature minors, advance requests, the state of palliative care and the protection of people with disabilities, is due on Oct. 17.

Cohen called the timeline for the legislation to be expanded by March unrealistic.

“I’d like to see this government push this deadline back,” she said.

But Dembo disagreed, telling MPs and senators that assessors are already gaining experience following the existing guidelines.

“Whether or not March 2023 is a realistic deadline depends on how committed and efficient various provincial bodies and local bodies can be in implementing guidelines based on the panel report. I’m hoping they can do that,” she said.

The committee’s review was mandated in the MAID legislation that required that a parliamentary review be initiated five years after the law came into effect in 2016. The committee began its work in 2021 before it was dissolved ahead of the federal election last fall.

The panel and the committee use the terminology “mental disorders,” rather than “mental illness,” stating in their reports that there is no standard definition for the latter and its use could cause confusion.

Conservative MPs on the committee offered a dissenting interim report earlier this year, saying it would be “problematic” to simply endorse the panel’s recommendations.

The MPs argued there are “far too many unanswered questions” on the subject, and nothing precludes the committee from revisiting whether assisted dying should be offered to this category of people at all.

“Legislation of this nature needs to be guided by science, and not ideology,” the Conservatives wrote in May, warning that an outcome that could “facilitate the deaths of Canadians who could have gotten better” would be completely unacceptable.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022

 

The Canadian Press

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