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I’ve published two issues of The Digital Health Newsletter since last week’s group announcement. I’ve copied and pasted the text from each newsletter below for better web-search (SEO) and archival purposes.
Venture capitalists are increasingly betting on sleep-focused startups , which is a great thing considering the latest analysis on poor sleep and its association with an increased risk of death. As Joanna Glasner reports in TechCrunch, sleep-focused startups have raised more than $700 million in the past couple of years. And while not a discrete investment category, most are of the digital health variety, i.e. medical and consumer apps, services, and/or devices. Plus, there are pharmaceuticals, media (e.g. Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global, a media platform with a stated mission of ending the epidemic of stress and burnout), and mattress companies (e.g. Casper).
Stanford University researchers have found that poor sleep is linked to a higher death risk for people with heart and blood sugar issues . Looking at data of people with metabolic diseases and survival after 16 years, the researchers reported that individuals who had 3 or more related diseases/risks and slept less than 6 hours per night were two times more likely to have died as compared with others who had similar risks, but slept at least 6 hours each night.
At long last, Texas will finally allow patients to use telehealth services like Teladoc (ironically, the company is headquartered in the state). Texas is one of eighteen states that never expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Plus, with five million uninsured, it holds the dubious distinction of being the state with the most residents not having health insurance. As such, less expensive and more accessible healthcare is a critical need.
A JAMA op-ed “Direct-to-Consumer Medical Testing in the Era of Value-Based Care” received sharp criticism from Dr. Eric Topol, who tweeted: “Dissing every consumer medical test as “low value”. Sorry, that’s not true. It’s called paternalism.” That’s a pretty succinct and justifiable slam of a weak, overreaching critique of the massive opportunities and benefits (economic and health) to be had via DTC health and medical testing.
IN OTHER NEWS
After taking on a new round of funding to the tune of $325M, live-streaming spinning class provider Peloton is the latest digital health unicorn. A startup is considered a unicorn when it’s valuations passes the $1B mark. Competitor company Flywheel also plans to introduce bikes for the home.
The University of Newcastle in Australia is using virtual reality (VR) to teach midwives how to safely deliver babies in life-or-death situations. The educational project puts students in a virtual delivery room, then has them respond to issues like having to resuscitate a newborn baby.
Hound Labs and Cannabix Technologies are competing to develop handheld breathalyzers for marijuana. The main purpose of these devices is testing impairment of drivers on the road, but they hold the potential of being used for measuring and titrating the dosage of medical marijuana.
The company is reportedly the first restaurant in the world to personalize meals based on your DNA. Customers first get their genotype test through DNAFit and then the restaurant bases meals on “DNA mutations which signal which food groups they should avoid and eat more of, for instance whether they should be eating high fat or a low carbohydrate diet.” The potential issue here is that, as previously reported by Kristen Brown, “in many cases, there just isn’t enough (genomic) science concerning the genes in question to accurately predict, say, whether you should steer clear of carbs.” Granted that may be the case in certain areas of nutrition, but in others the science is less uncertain.
For instance, in an NIH-funded study, genetically-predisposed slow metabolizers of caffeine (those who had a specific variant of the CYP1A2 gene) were found to have a 36% higher risk of heart attack if they consume 4 or more cups of coffee per day. The opposite was true for fast metabolizers, who actually saw a decreased risk of heart attack if they consumed 1-3 cups per day.
And when it comes to the taste of some foods, your genetics can also play a role. For example, people who possess variants of the taste receptor genes TAS2R and TAS2R38 are more sensitive to bitter flavors like those found in hoppy beers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. The same applies to people who experience a soapy aftertaste when eating cilantro, which is associated with olfactory-receptor genes OR6A2.
So while Vita Mojo’s founder Nick Popovici states that their “food is ultra-personalised, not just by taste, but by genes”, I think he may want to explore taste-personalization a little more. If anything, this may be more palatable for all parties.
And when it comes to the privacy of one’s genetic data obtained by DNAFit, the company’s CEO, Avi Lasarow, responded to a Twitter conversation emanating from my sharing of the article. See the relevant portion of that thread at right and my original tweet here.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
In a humorous video segment, comedian Judah Friedlander takes on the AI facial recognition and emotion-sensing technology of Kairos, a computer vision company that aims to detect emotions like anger, fear, disgust, sadness, joy, and lack of emotion. The results of the head-to-head matchup are very telling.
Quest Diagnostics is moving into rheumatoid arthritis treatment prediction by using IBM Watson’s AI and data analytics platform. The company is doing this by analyzing its own library of test results and also looking at EHR, medication prescribing patterns, and revenue data.
In a recent blog post, robotics expert Heather Knight recommends drivers not use Tesla autopilot around cyclists. She reports being “concerned that some will ignore its limitations and put biker lives at risk; we found the autopilot’s agnostic behavior around bicyclists to be frightening.” The system reportedly classified ~30% of other cars, and only 1% of bicyclists. As Mathew Ingram reports, some find Knight’s position to be alarmist, but even Tesla tells drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times when the autopilot system is in use and pay attention to their surroundings. Autopilot disengages if the driver takes their hands off the wheel for a certain period of time.
Writing in IEEE Spectrum, Lee Gomes states that neuromorphic computer chips “mimic the way neurons are connected and communicate in the human brain and can run on much less power than traditional CPUs.” The challenge is bringing these chips out of the lab and into commercial applications.“ According to Steve Furber, head of the SpiNNaker project, “It’s true that neuromorphic systems exist, and you can get one and use one. But all of them have fairly small user bases, in universities or industrial research groups. All require fairly specialized knowledge. And there is currently no compelling demonstration of a high-volume application where neuromorphic outperforms the alternative.”
ROBOTICS AND PROSTHETICS
Mark Geil, Professor of Kinesiology and Health at Georgia State University, reports that funding of innovations in prosthetics for veterans is also benefiting non-veterans. “Mobility”, he says, “is key to long-term health, and prosthetic limbs are key to mobility.” Efforts by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs help veterans but also nearly 2 million civilians who have had amputations, including from diabetes and vascular disease.
Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine have developed a mind-controlled bionic hand that helps stroke patients move again and speed up their rehabilitation. Users wear a cap that senses their intention to open or close their paralyzed hand and that signal is amplified for the bionic hand to perform the commands. The system can mean that a stroke patient may be able to dress themselves unassisted by others.
A team at the Inami Hiyama Laboratory created MetaLimbs, which work by strapping tracking markers and bend sensors to your feet, knees, and toes, which in turn allow you to control the wrist and elbow joints of twin metal arms. The systems also provides a squeeze force feedback on your foot when you touch something with the hand.
A new smart goggle system for insomniacs will be released by Sana Health in 2018. The product aims to put you to sleep within 10 minutes by blocking light and delivering audio and visual stimulation that triggers patterns in your brain associated with natural sleep cycles. It also monitors your nervous system to personalize the programming.
Ochsner Health System is using wearable technology to help combat chronic diseases. In a study, when compared to 400 other similar patients, of those who were closely monitored and coached, 71% reduced their blood pressure to within a targeted range, versus just 31% in the control group. Results were published in the American Journal of Medicine.
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Copyright © 2017 Paul Sonnier
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