Meet Dr. Helena Ariño Rodríguez

August 15, 2023

Dr. Helena Ariño Rodríguez (Vall d’Hebron Institut de Recerca (VHIR), Cemcat, Barcelona, Spain) was awarded a 2023 AEA Community Seed Grant for the investigation of Automated detection of autoimmune encephalitis using artificial intelligence. Learn more about her research and how it will impact those affected with autoimmune encephalitis. The start date for the award is August 1, 2023.

You have been awarded an AEA Community Seed Grant, can you tell us more about the study you plan to do?

Autoantibody detection is the main biomarker to diagnose autoimmune encephalitis. Tissue-based assays (TBA) are the most sensitive techniques and, in combination with additional immunoassays, they raise low false positive results. However, the diagnostic certainty is highly dependent on the evaluator expertise regarding recognition of immunoreactivity patterns and clinical mismatch. Machine learning, the capability of learning patterns by computers, has demonstrated to surpass human performance in some recognition tasks, particularly in computer vision. With this funding, we will use artificial intelligence to train a model able to classify patients with autoimmune encephalitis using TBA pictures from a reference laboratory for autoantibody detection and clinical information.

How will your study help patients and families affected by AE?

The results of this study will lay the foundations for higher accuracy diagnosis in autoimmune encephalitis, particularly in those patients with neural autoantibodies. A trained computational model with performance close or higher to experts, would help to reduce misdiagnosis, to shorten time gaps to a final diagnosis and to expand the use of immunoassays for autoantibody detection to a higher number of centers that are able to perform the techniques but don’t have a strong know-how regarding interpretation of the results. Altogether, this leads to more accurate and prompt diagnosis. Therefore, potentially to a better prognosis.

Tell us more about yourself and your affiliation?

I am a neurologist with a special interest in neuroimmunology. I was trained as a neurologist in Barcelona and completed my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Francesc Graus in the Neuroimmunology Lab directed by Dr. Josep Dalmau at IDIBAPS, Hospital Clinic. I contributed there to phenotype antibody-associated neurological disorders affecting the central nervous system. Afterwards I did a fellowship in the King’s College London learning the basics of natural language processing to exploit electronic health records. Currently, I am working at the Department of Neurology-Neuroimmunology of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, coordinating the Neuro-Oncology and Autoimmune Neurology Unit at Cemcat aimed to study immune-mediated neurological disorders such as autoimmune encephalitis and neurological complications of immunotherapy of cancer. I am proud to be funded by the AE Alliance community committed to improve the lives of people living with AE.

Thank you to the entire AE Alliance community for the commitment to changing the course of AE. Thank you to the researchers applying for the AEA Community Seed Grant program and to the AE Alliance community, friends and family members for donating to the AEA Research Network. It is your donations that allow us to fund research focused on improving the lives of people living with AE.

Together, we are changing the course of AE.