In Brief
Reports assert that Japanese doctors have, for the first time in history, used artificial intelligence to detect a type of leukemia, which helped to save a patient's life.

A Life-Saving AI

If you needed proof that the age of artificial intelligence is officially upon us, well, look no farther. Reports assert that IBM’s artificial intelligence (AI) system, Watson, just saved the life of a Japanese woman by correctly identifying her disease. This is notable because, for some time, her illness went undetected using conventional methods, and doctors were stumped.

To that end, the AI’s positive identification allowed doctors to develop a treatment for the woman in question, ultimately saving her life.

The key to this success is the AI’s ability to take a massive amount of data and analyze it quickly. This is something that human physicians, sadly, cannot do themselves (or at least, they can’t do it with nearly the accuracy or efficiency). The system looked at the woman’s genetic information and compared it to 20 million clinical oncology studies. After doing so, it determined that the patient had an exceedingly rare form of leukemia.

Initially, the woman had been diagnosed with, and treated for, acute myeloid leukemia; however, she failed to respond to the traditional treatment methods, which perplexed doctors.

The Future of Health

Satoru Miyano, a Professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science, notes that this is proof positive of the potential that AI has in the coming years, “to change the world.”  Seiji Yamada, of the National Institute of Informatics and chairman of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence, adds that this is the nation’s first case of an AI saving someone’s life, asserting that this is “the most practical application in the field of medical and health care for artificial intelligence”

Notably, the AI was able to diagnose the condition in just 10 minutes.

It is important to remember that using AI in this manner is not unprecedented in the medical field. Case in point, in the United States, it is already in use to support of the treatment of leukemia and brain tumors. And so this case, really, is just another bold step into the age of artificial intelligence.