Artificial intelligence, a new tool against leukemia

credit: Alessandro Ronchi

Dr. M. Carolina Florian (Program of Regenerative Medicine, IDIBELL, Spain) and Prof. Medhanie Mulaw (Ulm University, Germany) will receive more than 800.000 euros from the “La Caixa” Foundation to apply deep learning to investigate leukemia in the elderly.

This prestigious award supports the most promising initiatives of scientific excellence with potential value and high social impact, whether in basic, clinical, or translational research.


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a group of blood and bone marrow cancers characterized by incomplete maturation of white blood cells. Unfortunately, this type of malignancy is much more aggressive and has a ten-fold higher incidence in people over 65 years of age, when life expectancy after the diagnosis can be as little as a few months.

The consortium, composed by Dr. Carolina M. Florian’s team from Regenerative Medicine Program of IDIBELL and P-CMR[C] together with Prof. Medhanie Mulaw’s team from Ulm University, will start a project titled “Deep Learning to Dissect the Interaction between Leukemic Cells and the Ageing Niche”. The project has been selected to receive 800.000 euros from the ”La Caixa” Foundation to identify the mechanisms of initiation and progression of AML. It will focus on the application of Artificial Intelligence on multivariate histological data and single-cell RNA-seq technologies to analyze the interactions between leukemic cells and their microenvironment.

The project will be hosted and led by Dr. M. Carolina Florian team at IDIBELL, who will use mouse models to obtain histologic and single-cell gene expression data from leukemic cells in the bone marrow. Prof. Mulaw’s team will focus on the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep-learning on these datasets, identifying patterns of interaction between leukemic cells and their niche.

As Dr. Florian stated “Studies to date suggest that leukemic cells can modify their microenvironment to spread and survive chemotherapy treatments. However, a better understanding of this process is needed to design new therapeutic approaches”.

“We are extremely pleased that our project received funding support”, said Prof. Mulaw. “This will strengthen our ongoing collaborations. We have recently shown the importance of deep learning approaches in predicting aging of hematopoietic stem cells based on their relative distance to bone marrow niche cells”.

Now the investigators will further synergize their expertise on aging stem cells, bone marrow niche, leukemia biology and functional genomics to identify new therapeutic targets in AML.


Image of Dra. Carolina M. Florian performed by Alessandro Ronchi

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