The term artificial intelligence might have once seemed like a part of science fiction: a dream that we would never see in the real world. We now have driverless cars and limited AI technology in things like our wrist watches. Medical researchers are now taking these AI systems into the world of healthcare.
These applications are all about shrinking the time between symptoms and diagnosis. We have always looked for ways that computer science can improve human health. Now medical device companies are working on ways to use machine intelligence to make their products more effective for patients everywhere.
Making Rare Diseases Easier to Find
ThinkGenetic is a digital health startup company. It is finding a way for AI to help patients discover if they might have a genetic disease. David Jacob, ThinkGenetic’s CEO, recently moderated a panel called: How Artificial Intelligence is Moving the Needle in Medtech. “The panel will be looking for ways to use artificial intelligence to make their devices more knowledgeable,” says Jacob, “one of the underlying things will be how do we shorten the diagnosis odyssey – whether that’s with machine learning or with a wearable device.”
ThinkGenetic believes that it can locate people with diagnosed and undiagnosed genetic diseases by using AI systems. Jacob likes to call it, “GPS for genetics.” One of the most significant challenges for drug companies is finding patients. They create drug treatments for genetic conditions then they struggle to find the patients suffering from these illnesses in the real world.
How the AI Works
“What ThinkGenetic does is finds these patients on the internet when they’re out searching for answers and walks them through the process of learning more about themselves,” says Jacob. The application will take the patient step-by-step through a process. This application will help them figure out if they might have a genetic issue and then what it might be. This computer power will step in for human intelligence. First, it will take in all the signs and symptoms, and then it will connect them to all the possible diagnoses.
- Genetic diseases are among the rarest and difficult conditions to diagnose.
There is AI research filtering the symptoms and asking questions to narrow down the prospects. The artificial neural networks will then talk about what it could be before telling the patient what they need to talk about with their doctor. ThinkGenetic has genetic counselors on their staff to guide people to the next steps.
Other Uses for Artificial Intelligence
Advanced AI has become a component of many new medical leaps forward in the field of diagnosis. San Francisco based, Freenome, has created clinical studies to make AI-Genomic blood tests for colorectal cancer more normal. These test trials would be able to learn from its own mistakes over time, making cancer screening more accurate.
AI technology is also now being used alongside programs that will monitor a woman’s health. Ava, a startup firm, is currently working on a bracelet that will be able to track and monitor a woman’s cycle using AI. This application could aid in both pregnancy prevention and those women trying to become pregnant.
One of the most ambitious reported uses for AI is the company Beta Bionic. They are trying to create a bionic pancreas that can perform two crucial services for diabetes patients.
1. Monitor the blood sugar of a patient easily.
2. Regulate a patient’s blood sugar all on its own.
Beta Bionic has recently received FDA approval to start recruitment for in-home test studies of an insulin-only version of the device. Most of these new technologies are not meant to replace or simulate human doctors. These advances will hopefully only advance human medical care.
David Jacob predicts that the amount of uses for AI is only going to get bigger over the next few years. “In healthcare, I see AI making us more proactive rather than reactive, We’re going to see things coming before they actually come… All these devices are going to be sending data that can be useful to the healthcare system. If the algorithms are written correctly then we can basically see problems [ahead of time].”
In the recent past, the practice of using genetic sequencing to treat rare diseases was beyond our capacity. However, new technology advancements are making this dream a reality. The field of genomic medicine is growing.
What Does Genomic Medicine Mean?
According to news-medical.net, genomic medicine means catering medical care to a patient by using their own genetic makeup. Every cell that exists in your body contains DNA. This DNA has a say in everything about you, from the color of your hair to the way your body functions as a whole. The genome is the entire DNA content present in one cell of a living being.
Genomic medicine is making its way into more hospitals. At first, this practice was used to build complete genetic maps of patients. Since then, researchers have built off of that work. They have created a clearer understanding of human biology and chronic diseases. It is a non-invasive technology that can target diseases like brain cancer and cholera.
Research and Technology Make Genomic Medicine a Reality
Doctor Eric Green, Director of the NHGRI in Bethesda, MD, states that “The first change is an incredible increase in our knowledge about the human genome…and how changes or differences between peoples’ genomes influence health and confer risk for disease.”
It was not just one big technological leap that made this practice possible. It was a series of small changes over time that allowed this theory to become a reality. First, healthcare technology advances vastly reduced the cost of DNA sequencing.
- The first sequencing of a genome cost nearly $1 million and today it costs about $1,000.
The lower cost made further advancements even easier. Stephen Kingsmore, President and CEO of Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine gives credit to two specific pieces of technology. “The new Illumina NovaSeq sequencer has…increased the speed and scalability of human genome sequencing. Likewise… the Edico Genome DRAGEN software/hardware have enabled genome analysis to be performed in about one hour.”
Is It Making a Difference?
Experts believe we are just seeing the beginning of the effect genomic medicine can have. Still, it is already having an impact through a handful of practices that all have a medically legitimate benefit.
- Noninvasive prenatal testing: The current biggest use of genomic medicine has been in the prenatal field. Prenatal genetic tests can give parents an early view into the future of their offspring. A basic blood sample from the mother can provide a look into the future health of a child.
- Treating and diagnosing cancer: Being able to sequence DNA will allow doctors to look into a specific patient’s cancer. Then they will able to target that particular cancer with certain treatments.
- Pharmacogenomics: People all over the world have to live with all sort of allergies. Many allergic reactions come as a surprise. Genome sequencing could allow doctors to predetermine if a patient might have a bad reaction to a drug or medication.
Building the Groundwork to Make Genomic Medicine Possible
Kingsmore says that, in order to be ready for the future of genomic medicine and its applications, healthcare facilities have to place an importance on building “a well-rounded healthcare technology ecosystem.”
This means developing premium IT departments, then fully integrating them into the functions of a hospital. This will allow the hospital to share information freely and quickly. Proper access to technology also allows for the gathering of genome information with cloud-based software. A practice like that will help genomic medicine grow even faster.
“None of this is going to happen overnight.”
Dr. Eric Green cautions everyone not to expect genomic medicine in their medical practice tomorrow. There are still regulatory and reimbursement issues that need to be resolved. Healthcare professionals are also figuring out the best applications of this groundbreaking practice.
However, Green encourages us this science is expanding, “I think it’s very clear that the train has left the station…we are going to find ourselves in a very interesting transition phase for the next 10 to 20 years as it begins to spread throughout clinical practice.”
Just like the advances that brought us genomic medicine, the use of such practices will also be a slow bit-by-bit process.
For more information on genomic medicine, look to [healthtechmagazine.net].
A small study released in 2017 has documented a possible link between brain activity and the risk of obesity in teens. The study scanned the brains of teenagers while they were exposed to tempting phrases about food and a buffet of low and high-calorie food. The study called these phrases “food cues.” The results of this study show that there might be a connection between reduced activity in the self-regulation portions of the brain and the risks of adult obesity.
The Research Process
The scientists in this research used a functional MRI to scan the brains of 36 New York teens. Of the 36, 10 were overweight, 16 were lean but had a family history of obesity, and 10 were lean with no family history of obesity. The subjects were between the ages of 14 and 19. They were trying to identify neural responses to food cues.
One of the things they discovered was that food stimuli, as only words, showed a reaction in portions of the brain linked with reward and emotional response in all teens. The most curious aspect of this research was in another detail that was revealed. Of the teens tested, members of the test that were lean, but had a family history of obesity, showed less activity in the area of self-regulation in the brain. The teens who were overweight showed the same reduction.
All of this suggests that reduced activity in the self-regulation area of the brain might be a better way to predict obesity than just measuring responses to food stimuli. “It’s remarkable to me that we see these effects just by having participants read words like ‘French fries’ or ‘chocolate spread,’” said Susan Carnell, Ph.D. and assistant professor of psychiatry at John Hopkins University and the paper’s first author.
- Over half of all teens in America are overweight or obese.
already know that children of overweight parents are at risk for obesity. Researchers were hoping to find a better understanding of the risk factors related to obesity. Being overweight is linked to a laundry list of health risks. Understanding obesity could lead to reducing health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
How does this help us?
The researchers behind this study are not implying that we all should start giving our teens brain scans to identify their risk factors. However, the results of this study could affect how we treat obesity in the future. If all of these results are true, then it means that there are signs of obesity that beyond our personal control. It could indicate that obesity has genetic facets beyond just what we choose to eat.
This study suggests that future treatment and prevention of obesity could focus on improving the self-regulatory parts of the body. Carnell states that “strengthen(ing) the self-regulatory system may be more useful for teenagers than typical programs focusing purely on diet and physical activity, which have not been very successful at reducing or preventing obesity.”
For more information, take a look at [hopkinsmedicine.org].