Perhaps the most impressive usage of artificial intelligence in medical diagnosis is in cell-free DNA analysis. Cell-free DNA tests, if you’re unfamiliar with the practice, screen blood plasma for DNA fragments (cfDNA) that are left behind when cells in the body die. Currently, the most prominent usage for these tests is as a pregnancy screening tool—by testing fetal DNA (cffDNA) found in the mother’s blood plasma, medical professionals can test for gender and certain genetic conditions.
The new technique already has a wealth of potential, even before artificial intelligence is applied. Incorporate the A.I., however, and the possibilities only become more impressive.
Take our ambitious mission at Freenome, for example. Using advanced deep learning algorithms, Freenome’s AI Genomics platform is looking at cfDNA and other cell-free biomarkers to aggregate and decode genetic data left behind by cancer cells, as well as the patient’s immune system. Using the A.I. to identify patterns and trends in these cell-free biomarkers enables Freenome to achieve cancer detection at much earlier stages, and determine which treatments will be most effective.
Rather than having to wait until later stages when the cancer causes observable symptoms in the patient, or the growth is visible on X-rays and CT scans, Freenome will help doctors identify cancer at the earliest stages of its growth, making treatments more effective and drastically improving survival rates, all from a blood test.
Computers have been changing the world since their inception, and with the advent of functional “weak A.I.s,” that progress has only accelerated. With the introduction of artificial intelligence into healthcare and the continual improvement of technology, clinicians in the next several years can expect to achieve medical miracles long thought impossible.