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Science  —  5 minutes

PLAKK: Using artificial intelligence to better predict stroke risk

October 20th, 2022
Biron Team
Biron Team

A Montreal-based start-up, the big winner of Biron’s Phase B competition, is very interested in stroke prevention and is currently developing a method for analyzing medical images using artificial intelligence (AI). This tool is of interest to people with a strong family history of stroke, such as Line Lacroix, who tells us about her experience.

A worrisome family history

“Whether it’s been in my immediate or extended family, or among my friends or former co-workers, I’ve seen the damage that strokes can cause and their long-term effects. They’re devastating not just for the victims but also their families, which become caregivers overnight, with all that this implies and the exhaustion that follows. The impact on society and public finances is also significant.

“Everyone I know who’s had a stroke or heart attack was very active. Every time a stroke claims another victim, we lose that person’s expertise, strengths and contribution to society.

“Personally, I try to have the healthiest lifestyle I can to put all the odds in my favour. I jog several times a week. I eat well. I sleep well and try to control my stress level. In short, I take care of myself.

“Yet, despite my efforts, two years ago my annual blood test indicated that my cholesterol and blood sugar levels were abnormally high. These conditions, which are often genetic, increase the risk of stroke. They harden the arteries and cause a buildup of plaque. To avoid having to take medication, I switched from a good diet to an excellent diet and increased my physical activity.

Traditional medicine struggles to prevent strokes

“Currently, according to doctors, I don’t meet the criteria for access to preventive examinations such as ultrasound imaging the fatty deposits in the carotid arteries. I’m eligible for a traditional follow-up, which is basically a general blood test. I’m concerned and at the same time disappointed that, given my family history, the public health care system does not offer me access to preventive medicine in this area. It would reduce the cost to society and the after-effects of a stroke.

Advancing the science

“Nevertheless, I had a glimmer of hope when I read an article in the La Presse newspaper about advances made by PLAKK, a health company working in the field of stroke prevention. I immediately contacted their representatives to get a spot in their research protocol. In the past, I was selected to take part in a research protocol. This allowed me to solve a problem by getting surgery I would never have been able to have without this program.

“The PLAKK team replied to me that it was going to launch a research protocol by early 2023. I hope I can be a part of it. I consider this experimental project to be absolutely essential to the development of predictive tools, just as we do for a number of cancers. By being involved, I’m hoping to advance the science and contribute to the success of an innovative project that could save many lives.”

PLAKK aims to revolutionize predictive medicine for strokes

Situations such as that of Ms. Lacroix are not uncommon in Quebec. To this day, medicine still struggles to prevent the risk of stroke or heart attack. Diagnoses are difficult to establish and the wait for surgery can last years. What’s more, this type of surgery, which is not a benign procedure, carries risks.

In trying to address a serious public health issue, the work of Dr. Kashif Khan, co-founder and CEO of PLAKK, offers patients hope. His ultrasound imaging technology combined with an artificial intelligence system would enable a better assessment of the degree of artery blockage by more accurately measuring the composition and size of plaques.

Given that a stroke occurs every ten minutes in Canada, this technology could save or change the course of many lives each year. This is why the scientific community is closely watching the progression of Dr. Khan’s research.

Biron Health Group is delighted to have awarded PLAKK the grand prize in the 2022 Phase B competition, which recognizes Quebec innovations with high potential in the field of preventive and predictive medicine.

Biron Team
Biron Team