Cutting-edge science and technology "made in Ticino" join forces in the fight against hereditary arrhythmic diseases


Institutional Communication Service

28 September 2021

Despite major advances in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, sudden cardiac death continues to be a major problem in both clinical practice and public health management. To address the problem and find solutions, the Ticino of cutting-edge science and technology is once again joining forces and creating a research consortium to develop the first customised and personalised digital system to monitor, identify and prevent Inherited Arrhythmogenic Diseases (IAD), as well as to activate a geolocation and alarm system for life-threatening rhythm disturbances. The project will be funded under the EU Eurostars programme and involves the Institute for Digital Technologies for Personalized Healthcare (MeDiTech) at SUPSI, the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA USI-SUPSI), the Cardiocentro Ticino Institute (EOC), the Ticino Cuore Foundation and the firms WellD (CH) and L.I.F.E. (IT).

Sudden cardiac death accounts for 40-50% of all cardiovascular deaths, and about half of these sudden deaths occur as the initial manifestation of coronary artery disease, genetic diseases or other structural heart diseases. The research project launched in Ticino to address this problem is called CMIPA (Cardio-MIPA Inherited Arrhythmogenic Diseases Monitoring, Identification, Prediction and Alert) and will combine the most advanced skills in the fields of bio signal processing, artificial intelligence, clinical cardiac research, wearable devices (wearables) and software design, to develop a unique product at the service of physicians and their patients. Cardio-MIPA will have a multi-parameter and multi-source approach: by combining clinical, genetic and demographic data, the device will be able to adapt advanced learning algorithms to a specific subject. The project will also reconfigure the so-called 'wearable computer' of the Italian firm L.I.F.E. to find the correct positioning of the electrodes to identify the signals that can diagnose these particular arrhythmias.

Prof. Angelo Auricchio of Cardiocentro Ticino and Adjunct professor at the USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, who is in charge of the clinical research related to the project, explains that "the idea stems from the clinical need to monitor, through real-time and continuous electrocardiographic recording, patients with genetically-based arrhythmic diseases for whom there is a risk of life-threatening arrhythmias. The 12 or 16-lead electrocardiogram of these patients (as well as other physiological parameters such as temperature, respiratory acts, physical activity in progress, etc.) will be recorded through a wearable device developed by L.I.F.E. Italia. The electrocardiographic trace will therefore be analysed in real time using sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms that will be developed at IDSIA and will be integrated into a computer system designed to interact with the regional surveillance network managed by the Fondazione Ticino Cuore and the Federazione Cantonale Ticinese Servizi Ambulanze. In the event of a life-threatening rhythm disturbance, the patient will be immediately geolocated and an alarm will be triggered by the network of rescuers and the 144 emergency call centre".

Giulio Conte, Adjunct professor at USI and head of Rare diseases service at Cardiocentro, says "the system could be used well beyond its original function, for example in monitoring the health conditions of elderly people, who live alone with reduced mobility, in remote or isolated areas. In other words, it is a project that is proposed for a real application of telemedicine in the territory and of proximity medicine. I also believe that the value of the network of collaborations that made the project possible should be appreciated: a synergy between different and complementary realities of the public and private sector, institutions and companies that combine skills and become promoters of a concrete initiative to the benefit of patients and the population of Ticino".