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Living with Lupus

Using artificial intelligence to predict risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with lupus

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Credit: Africa Images
Sponsored by:
Credit: Africa Images

May Y. Choi

MD FRCPC, MPH, Research Scientist, Rheumatology

Preventive care has proven essential to detect different types of health conditions at an early stage and, in many cases, avoid any further complications. With this in mind, a new study conducted by scientists at Arthritis Research Canada aims at developing and testing a tool to help predict cardiovascular disease in people with lupus.

Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are more common in people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease that frequently affects women and young people. The specific reason behind this is unknown but it is thought to be related to lupus inflammation and the medications used to treat it. Because lupus often affects young women who are less likely to get heart disease and therefore don’t get the screening they need for adequate prevention of it, this high risk goes unrecognized.

Existing tools to predict cardiovascular risk designed for the general population only consider traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure so, unsurprisingly, they perform poorly in people with lupus. Additionally, specific tools developed for this purpose are not routinely used by doctors in practice due to poor accuracy, and complex calculations, and have not been widely tested. The lack of prevention in this area proves a need for an accurate way to measure and prevent cardiovascular risk specifically for people with lupus.

To solve this issue and provide a reliable tool to predict heart disease in people with lupus, scientists will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop and test a novel calculator.  By identifying patterns from thousands of data points, the advanced computer algorithms will incorporate known traditional cardiovascular disease and lupus risk factors and blood tests in a large international dataset of approximately 3,000 lupus patients.

“This study, SLE CALCULATOR, will provide greater insights into the causes of cardiovascular disease in people with lupus and could potentially identify unknown treatment targets for inflammation and atherosclerosis,” says May Choi, Research Scientist at Arthritis Research Canada.

Once the study is completed, the calculator will be available and accessible online to doctors and patients in clinical care.

For more information about Lupus research, visit

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