Mathematicians and Practicing Surgeons to Fight Venous Diseases
One million people in Russia suffer from venous diseases. The ‘Intelligent data analysis for healthcare information systems’ Mirror Lab project brings together expertise in mathematics and medicine in order to better diagnose various conditions in phlebology. Project leader Vasilii Gromov talked to The HSE LooK about its achievements and prospects.
Vasilii Gromov, Professor at the School of Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence, Senior Research Fellow at the International Laboratory for Intelligent Systems and Structural Analysis, and leader of the project ‘Intelligent data analysis for healthcare information systems’
Why Doctors Need Mathematicians
Ideally, any mirror lab project would be interdisciplinary and combine two fundamentally different groups of researchers. In our case, these groups are mathematicians specialising in artificial intelligence and practicing surgeons who have little interest in our mathematical models but need a solution for their specific problem. There are tasks where applied mathematicians are not needed because a method already exists and just needs to be applied. However, there are also tasks where our presence is necessary, ie when the existing methods will not work. Diagnosis of venous diseases is an example of this type of task.
Our common challenge was learning to speak each other’s language
Our colleagues tried to understand why some of our formalities are important. For us, mathematics is a way of describing reality; if something doesn’t work, then this means that the chosen method is not applicable to the given task. We tried to understand their requests and their perspective of what they consider right and wrong. This kind of interdisciplinary experience is important, even if it slows down the process because too many things must be understood overall.
Mirror Labs are joint research projects between HSE University and its partner institutions. Launched in 2020, this format was the first inter-university initiative of its kind aimed at developing networks and collaborative partnerships, while also enhancing cooperation in research and academic activities between HSE University and other leading Russian academic institutions.
The name ‘mirror’ labs refers to the financing of projects on parity terms and pooling research resources from both sides: providing each other with necessary expertise, sharing analytical methodology and results, conducting training seminars for each other and hosting interns. Research activities may be carried out by joint project teams over a period of three years with the option for extension.
Mirror Lab projects can be carried out in various fields and a diverse array of formats.
Advances in Diagnostics with Machine Learning
While conversing with various colleagues (physicians, phlebologists, doctors of science in this particular field, etc), I heard a terrible number:
One million people in Russia suffer from venous diseases
The situation is dire and, as such, the task was to understand how the disease proceeds for particular people, ie, which vein gets blocked, which vein doesn’t get blocked, which vein gets partially blocked, and whether surgery is necessary or not. All of these factors can be learned from certain parameters and characteristics of the system, such as cross-sectional MRI, venous flow velocity in superficial veins, computed tomography, and so forth. From a mathematical point of view, the situation looked quite simple: we had to solve the so-called inverse problem of mathematical physics with the application of neural network approximation. However, it turned out that the body of healthcare data is actually very small.
While classical machine learning problems involve dealing with millions of pieces of data, here, we have around a hundred
We identified three interrelated approaches for solving the data problem: data collection from colleagues who deal with phlebology issues, sample augmentation using special mathematical methods, and the application of physics-informed neural networks.
The second task is no less important from a social and medical point of view. This concerns fistulas, artificial tube-like connections used particularly for patients who go through hemodialysis. The problem is that fistulas tend to get clogged and can lead to blood clots breaking off and restricted blood flow. With this in mind, we developed a device that can be attached to a fistula with a patch and identifies different types of blood movement inside it: ‘normal’, ‘consult a doctor immediately’, and ‘not critical yet, but you should probably consult a doctor’.
An Inter-Regional Project Becomes International
A former member of our department used to be Vice Rector for Science and Innovation at Surgut State University. When he enquired about which innovations could be introduced at his university, he learned there was a team of rather strong doctors and started looking for matching specialists to work with. So, we met, talked, and found some common points of understanding.
Today, our project team consists of specialists in mathematical modelling and AI from HSE University, and physicians, surgeons, diagnosticians, and specialists in social medicine from Surgut State University.
Moreover, our project attracted various specialists who deal with the same issues. As such, doctors from St Petersburg, Nizhnevartovsk, Samara, Tashkent, and the Netherlands are actively cooperating with us, and we hope that this list of people—to whom I would like to personally express my gratitude—will expand, and we will become a point of attraction in a broader sense.
We are progressing in phlebology, but the implementation period is much longer than three years
There have been practical developments, and we definitely know how to build a mathematical model. However, we need more human resources to complete it. Right now, we lack software engineers, mathematicians, and people who can organise data collection, but of course, we will continue working on the project!
Ilya Dolmatov, Director of the HSE Institute of Economics and Utility Regulation, heads a Mirror Lab project titled ‘Models of Energy Infrastructure Development in Russia’s Remote and Isolated Territories’ and implemented together with a university in Irkutsk. Why is energy efficiency a particularly pressing problem in remote territories? How can economics and engineering work together to solve it? Ilya Dolmatov addressed these and other issues in his interview for The HSE LooK.
What does Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave Russian territory, have in common with Perm Krai, a region in the Urals? How do researchers use digital humanities methods to study migration? Sergei Kornienko, Leading Research Fellow at the Group for Historical Research (HSE University-Perm), heads the Mirror Lab project ‘Migration as a factor of social transformation of Soviet regions during the post-war reconstruction period: an analysis through digital humanities’. In this interview for The HSE LooK, he talks about this collaboration.
HSE University Collaborates with University in Southern Russia to Compare Values and Identities across Generations and Regions
Is there a system of values that is common to the whole population of Russia? Do values differ across generations? Is it possible to carry out research among refugees? HSE University researchers joined forces with their peers from Kuban State Technological University to study values and intercultural relations across Russian regions as part of a Mirror Labs project. The HSE LooK talked about this cooperation to Nadezhda Lebedeva, Director of the HSE Centre for Sociocultural Research, who heads up the Mirror Lab project, and project participant Victoria Galyapina, Leading Research Fellow at the same Centre.
Through its Mirror Laboratories project, HSE University develops collaborations with academic institutions across the country. Today, it includes 22 ongoing projects in partnership with 20 universities in mathematics, computer science, economics, sociology, biology, history and many other fields. Marina Litvintseva, Director for Advanced Research at HSE University, coordinates international and mirror laboratory projects. In this year’s second issue of HSE LooK, she talked about the development of mirror laboratories and the future of the project.
The Mirror Labs research project competition is aimed at HSE University departments that are planning to conduct joint studies with other Russian universities and research centres. The competition is now in its third year. A total of 19 academic organisations from 14 regions of Russia submitted applications as partners of HSE University, including 9 organisations participating for the first time.
Scholars from Moscow and Vladivostok Join Efforts to Study Institutes and Preferences in Economic Behaviour
Applications from HSE departments for the ‘Mirror Laboratories’ open project competition are open until May 20. One of the ‘mirror laboratories’ successfully operating today was created as a result of a similar competition in 2020 by economists from HSE University and Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) to study institutes and preferences in economic behaviour. Alexis Belianin, Head of the HSE International Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics, talked about how peers from Moscow and Vladivostok collaborate.
HSE Vice Rector Maria Yudkevich speaks about the launch of Mirror Laboratories, the third open project competition held by HSE University. Teams from Russian universities, research organisations, and government research centres looking to collaborate with HSE research departments are invited to participate in the competition. Applications will be accepted until May 20.
Aleksey Kychkin, Head of the Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Empirical Studies, spoke to the HSE Look about his background, industry projects the lab has been doing, and student involvement in research.
The competition is open to HSE University research units planning to conduct joint projects with academic institutions, research organisations and state academic centres of the Russian Federation. Applications are open until May 20, 2022.
What are the necessary digital competencies for students of humanities? Where can they apply their knowledge and skills? What projects in digital humanities are currently underway at HSE University Perm? Dinara Gagarina, HSE University-Perm scholar and the national representative of Digital Humanities Course Registry, answers these and other questions in her interview with the HSE Look.