Multimodality Integrated Imaging for Foetal Interventions by Mario Ceresa, one of the 170 ground-breaking ideas set to revolutionise Europe

(Original text from UPF news)

The European Commission has selected the project MIIFI - Multimodality Integrated Imaging for Foetal Interventions as one of the 170 ground-breaking ideas that are set to revolutionize the European technology scene in the coming years.

The initiative, led by researcher Mario Ceresa, a member of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC) at Pompeu Fabra University, will generate an impact on the treatment of foeto-foetal transfusion syndrome (FFTS), a condition that occurs in 15% of pregnancies with monochorionic twins in which an imbalance develops in the blood flow between the foetuses, with serious repercussions on their status.

“When FFTS occurs, the only option is to separate the blood circulation of the two foetuses by laser photo-coagulation of the abnormal vascular connections. However, this intervention is very challenging due to the complexity of operating within the uterus, the variability in the position of the placenta and its blood vessel distribution, the low manoeuvrability of foetoscopes, and an extremely limited field of vision”, explains Ceresa and Elisenda Eixarch, member of the fetal surgery team of the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital and doctor responsible for the BCNatal project.

And adds, “these difficulties mean the intervention is complex and risky. The surgeon must integrate all the information in a mental image that allows him or her to make the right decision at every step, which requires many years of experience and in some cases may be insufficient. In a previous project funded by the CELLEX Foundation and led by BCNatal (Dr. Gratacós), our team developed the basic features of this system”.

Now, the goal of MIIFI is to provide the surgeon with “super-powers” using recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning to merge foetoscopic images with MRI and ultrasound in real time. The surgeon will be able to see the most relevant information at any time through augmented reality glasses.

The consortium, made up of the researchers Jordina Torrents Barrena, Mario Ceresa, Miguel A. González Ballester (BCN Medtech, UPF, Barcelona), Karen López-Linares, Iván Macía (Vicomtech, San Sebastian), Elisenda Eixarch and Eduard Gratacós (Hospital San Juan de Dios/IDIBAPS, Barcelona) is to work over the next 12 months to make a proof of concept of the system and present it in September 2020 in Brussels (Belgium).

The project has emerged from the European initiative ATTRACT, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. With a budget of 17 million euros it foments the 170 best innovative ideas with market potential with the aim of creating products, services, companies and jobs based on new detection and image technologies in Europe. Officially it will kick off with a meeting at the CERN in Geneva on 20-21 May, along with the representatives of the other selected projects.

Some media articles talking about it:

- "Un proyecto usa inteligencia artificial para ayudar en una intervención compleja a fetos". 20 minutos. 05/04/2019