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Researchers at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) and the University of Manchester have identified 18 new genetic variations—in addition to BRCA1 and BRCA2—that could help reduce the number of women needing breast-removal surgery by around 33%. The study tested the DNA of 451 women who had developed breast cancer and had a family history of the disease. This information —along with other factors (not described) —were used to determine an overall risk estimate for breast cancer. In 2013, Angelina Jolie revealed that she had undergone a double mastectomy, saying at the time: “My doctors estimated that I had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.” This new test will identify when women like Jolie might be reclassified to a lower cancer-risk category, which would be less likely to lead to elective preventative breast-removal surgery.
An FDA panel will meet to consider approving a new gene therapy for blindness. In testing of Spark Therapeutics’ Luxturna, the vision of three youths and some others with hereditary blindness was improved. This would be the first FDA-approved gene therapy for an inherited disease as well as the first ever for a corrective gene administered directly patients. While Luxturna does not result in 20-20 vision or work in all cases, it has resulted in improved vision for nearly all patients who tried it.
After sequencing the genome of durian, the famous stinky fruit, researchers discovered that the the smell is primarily due to “turbocharged” volatile sulfur compound production.
Elon Musk believes Tesla could rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid with batteries and solar power, saying “The Tesla team has [built solar grids] for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too.”Musk spoke with the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, who tweeted: “Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities. Next steps soon to follow.”
The FCC has approved Alphabet’s plan to use balloons to provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has been challenged in restoring communications services following Hurricane Maria. Alphabet’s Project Loon provides Internet service via solar-powered, high-altitude balloons.
Pharmaceutical company Otsuka has partnered with Medibio to objectively assess if patients are taking the correct dosage of the drug Abilify, which is used for bipolar, major depressive disorders, and schizophrenia. Medibio CEO Jack Cosentino stated that this “is a unique pairing and a great opportunity for digital health. We have been picked by a pharmaceutical leader who wants to look at pairing their drug users with a novel digital health technology. We are turning the tables. It is no longer enough to just sell a drug; we have to look at how this drug is really working for each patient.”
After Alexa Anthony’s beloved horse died in the night from colic, she decided to form her company Magic AI, whose product known as ‘StableGuard’, provides 24-hour monitoring plus alerts to owners and others when horses may need attention.
Animal rights activists are using Facebook and YouTube plus virtual reality to immerse viewers into the practices of factory animal farms.
Physiotherapist Ciara Clancy developed the Beats Medical app to help treat Parkinson’s patients outside the hospital.
Doctors can be app makers with no coding required by using tools like Doctella.
Judy Faulkner, CEO of electronic health record software company Epic, is advocating that EHRs become CHRs, i.e. comprehensive health records. CHRs would contain data not in traditional EHRs, e.g. social determinants, diet, sleep, and whether someone is obese, or lonely, just to name a few. Unfortunately, there’s no mention in the article about progress towards interoperability of EHR data between different software vendor systems, which remains a massive problem in the U.S. healthcare system. For more on the status of interoperability, reference the news to the right. Also, there’s a related discussion in the Digital Health group that has several comments.
A new report published in Health Affairs, “Progress In Interoperability: Measuring US Hospitals’ Engagement In Sharing Patient Data“, takes a look at national trends in engagement in four domains of interoperability: finding, sending, receiving, and integrating electronic patient information from outside providers. The authors found small gains from 2014 to 2015, with just 29.7% of hospitals engaging in all four domains in 2015 versus 24.5% in 2014. In covering the report, Eureka Alert states that many hospitals are still not using digital patient health information and quotes Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Medicine and the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF and senior author of the study as saying: “I would have thought we’d see more movement in these measures, because electronic health records have been widely adopted for several years.”
LIVING AND SOCIETY
Supercar manufacturers like Lamborghini and McLaren want your high performance cars to teach you to drive better. As WIRED’s Alex Davies puts it, “You can’t get chills from 740 hp and a naturally aspirated V-12 engine if you hand control over to some bore of a robot.” And Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Lamborghini reinforces this point: “Our customer wants hands-on, fun to drive, to be at the center of this emotional experience.”
EarlySense, which produces a vital sign monitoring system placed under your bed mattress, has launched a new device for fertility tracking. Their Percept system (also placed under the mattress) is designed to monitor a woman’s “internal signals” and provide her with information and predictions related to ovulation, menstruation, sleep, vital signs, and stress.
The FDA has approved Respicardia, Inc.’s Remede System, an implantable device used to treat serious cases of sleep apnea. The system is comprised of a battery pack (placed under the skin on the upper chest) and a set of wires inserted into blood vessels near the nerve that stimulates breathing. In the event that normal breathing stops during sleep, the device stimulates the nerve that then moves the diaphragm to stimulate breathing.
According to a new World Health Organization (WHO) and Imperial College London study, the number of obese children and adolescents (aged 5-19 years) worldwide has increased tenfold in the past four decades. This reflects an increase from under 1% in 1975 to nearly 6% in girls (50 million) and nearly 8% in boys (74 million) in 2016. Children and adolescents have rapidly transitioned from mostly underweight to mostly overweight in many middle-income countries, including in East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The authors say this could reflect an increase in the consumption of energy-dense foods, especially highly processed carbohydrates, which lead to weight gain and poor lifelong health outcomes.
In Chicago, “Big Soda” has scored a victory by having a penny-per-ounce sugary drinks tax there repealed. While public health officials —who link excessive sugar consumption to health epidemics like obesity —see this as a loss, a spokesperson for the American Beverage Association (which represents soda manufacturers like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group) stated that “People are catching on to what these taxes are: money grabs. And they are telling their elected officials there’s a better way that doesn’t hurt working people.”
According to Jim O‘Hara, director of Health Promotion Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “The industry’s opposition to these taxes is not new. Their willingness to write big checks is not new. Sometimes they are going to win. More times than not they are going to lose.”
Other country’s with similar taxes on sugary drinks include Mexico and the United Kingdom. Washington state repealed soda and candy taxes back in 2010, but the repeal vote by Chicago is the first in the U.S. since that time.
A new device from Third Pole Therapeutics helps newborns with pulmonary hypertension breathe, or so-called ‘blue babies’. The device makes nitric oxide (NO) by combining air with pulsed electrical charges. NO dilates blood vessels in the lungs, which helps send more oxygen throughout the body. A paperback-size version (pictured) is in development for home use and could be clipped onto a belt.
According to Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist Louis Ignarro, “This is a very big deal for patient care, because it makes NO treatment affordable for a much wider range of hospitals and patients.” According to Ignarro, current methods come with “incredibly high expense and a consequent drain on health-care funds.”
The U.S. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has released a great overview video of digital health efforts at the Veterans Health Administration. The segment features mental health, telehealth, online patient portals, EHRs, and more. The video description: Through a series of interviews with Veterans and VA providers, this video spotlights technologies in use to advance Connected Care’s mission to increase and improve Veterans’ access to care.
VA Health overview: The Veterans Health Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care at 1,245 health care facilities, including 170 VA Medical Centers and 1,065 outpatient sites of care of varying complexity (VHA outpatient clinics), serving more than 9 million enrolled Veterans each year.
The Joint Commission has decided not to add new and burdensome standards for hospitals and clinics with telehealth programs. The Commission had previously released draft standards, but according to spokesperson Katie Looze Bronk, “At this time, we have closed the field review and decided not to move forward with the proposed telehealth standards.”
Advocates had expressed concerns over the proposed standards, which would have been more restrictive than ‘Conditions of Participation’ by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and many state regulations. The new standards proposed by the Joint Commission would have required hospitals with telehealth programs to obtain informed consent from patients about the type of healthcare they receive and how it is delivered.
LIVING AND SOCIETY
In a wide-ranging interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook explains how augmented reality (AR) will change our lives. As cook states, “Think back to 2008, when the App Store went live. There was the initial round of apps and people looked at them and said, ‘this is not anything, mobile apps are not going to take off’. And then, step by step, things start to move. And it is sort of a curve, it was just exponential —and now you couldn’t imagine your life without apps. Your health is on one app, your financials, your shopping, your news, your entertainment —it’s everything. AR is like that. It will be that dramatic.”
In a video segment on Yahoo Finance, tech critic David Pogue takes a look at 7 of the first iPhone augmented reality (AR) apps. According to Pogue, “For my money, augmented reality (AR) is the bigger deal (versus VR). That’s where you can still see the real world, but the computer superimposes graphics on it. As you look around, the sizes, angles, and distances of the simulated objects smoothly change in real time as though they really exist. (Pokémon Go is an AR app. So is Snapchat when it adds goofy glasses and antennae to your live image.)”
Swedish startup Tinitell is helping parents keep track of their kids with a wrist-worn wearable mobile phone and an app. The device lets parents call their children and keep track of their location. Kids can also make outgoing calls.
Uber is facing five criminal probes from the U.S. Department of Justice Department, including violations of price-transparency laws and alleged theft of documents from Alphabet. As previously reported, London, is banning the service due to “a lack of corporate responsibility”. Brazil, also, is considering banning Uber or regulating it like a taxi company.
Outcome Health —a startup valued at $5B—reportedly misled its advertisers between 2014 and 2016, according to the WSJ. Outcome —which provides health info with video alongside pharma advertising in doctors’ offices and waiting rooms —reportedly charged for more screen installations than it actually delivered. Also, screenshots showing that ads had run were reportedly doctored by employees.
MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS
Telemedicine provider Avizia has acquired Carena, a startup that builds platforms for virtual doctor visits. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Avizia has raised $20M to date and provides telehealth services to approximately 25% of U.S. hospitals.
An independent committee of 16 experts voted unanimously to recommend that the FDA approve Luxturma, a treatment from Spark Therapeutics that fixes a mutated gene that provides instructions for making a protein necessary for normal vision. In testing of Luxturna, the vision of three youths and some others with hereditary blindness was improved.
A new study of 600,000 people has provided insight into how some people live longer than others. Researchers found specific mutations in DNA that alter lifespan via the immune system, which can add 7 months of life on average. According to Dr Peter Joshi, from The University of Edinburgh, around 20% of the variation in lifespans may be inherited, but only 1% of such mutations have yet been found. He added that “you’ve got even more influence” through the choices you make.
Video: How the robot apocalypse started –Science Mag on Twitter
Stephen Colbert’s ” Cyborgasm: Artificial Intelligence”
Copyright © 2017 Paul Sonnier
Social Entrepreneur ⋅ Speaker ⋅ Consultant
Contributing Editor, Innovation & Tech Today
Founder, Digital Health group on LinkedIn ⋅ 50,000+ members
Creator, Story of Digital Health
San Diego, CA, USA