As it turns out, the shape of the heart can tell us a lot more about the risk of heart disease than previously thought. A study conducted with the help of artificial intelligence has found that a more rounded heart shape can actually indicate an organ under stress.
Cardiologists have long noticed that such a form tends to appear after the onset of a heart condition. However, thanks to artificial intelligence, researchers have managed to demonstrate on a large scale that there are hearts of all shapes, even fuller and rounder, even regardless of a clinical diagnosis. And some of these shapes may provide important clues about heart health.
Round heart, worrying state
The study, published in Med (I link it here), has revealed new details about the genetic basis of cardiomyopathy, which includes conditions such as cardiac arrhythmia andcongestive heart failure. The senior authors of the study are Shoa Clarke, of the Stanford School of Medicine, e David Ouyang of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. The lead author of the study is Milos Vukadinovic, a bioengineering student at the University of California.
Using images from UK Biobank, a large UK medical database, the researchers measured the sphericity of the left ventricle of 38.897 hearts healthy. They chose to focus on the left ventricle, normally cone-shaped, because it's the core part of the heart muscle, which does the most stressful part of the mechanical work and is especially prone to damage and heart disease.
Link between heart shape and heart disease
First, researchers have shown that increased sphericity is a risk factor for the development of cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation, or heart failure. They found that a small increase in plumpness was associated with a 47 percent increase in the development of heart disease up to 10 years later.
Next, the scientists examined the biobank participants' genetic data, studying both markers of sphericity and those of heart conditions, uncovering an intersection between the two. In summary? Intrinsic heart muscle disease—that is, damage not sustained during a heart attack—can cause left ventricular sphericity. Even before heart disease occurs.
The presence of increased sphericity could, according to the scientists, "identify individuals with underlying molecular/cellular abnormalities that place them at increased risk of developing overt cardiomyopathy or related heart diseases, such as atrial fibrillation."
It must be said, however, that an increase in heart sphericity does not automatically mean heart disease. Most of the sample considered did not develop any, at least in the 10 years of monitoring.
The importance of data science
If the shape of the heart becomes a basic detail collected in clinical settings, you may start to see changes that predict heart disease and other problems. Images of the vascular system such as those used for the study can provide an enormous amount of scientific clues that are not used today.
L'artificial intelligence can really do a lot in the analysis and correlation of this huge amount of data: it is one of the tasks for which we expect important results in the near future.