Advances in 2017 which may set the digital health stage for 2018

click to enlargeOur second Roundup takes us to the Lone Prairie, where we spot some promising young Health Tech Advances that may grow up to be Something Big in 2018 and beyond. 

From Lancaster University, just published in Brain Research (academic/professional access) is their study of an experimental ‘triple agonist’ drug developed for type 2 diabetes that shows promise in reversing the memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease. The treatment in APP/PS1 mice with human mutated genes used a combination of GLP-1, GIP, and Glucagon that “enhanced levels of a brain growth factor which protects nerve cell functioning, reduced the amount of amyloid plaques in the brain linked with Alzheimer’s, reduced both chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, and slowed down the rate of nerve cell loss.” This treatment explores a known link between type 2 diabetes as a risk factor and the implications of both impaired insulin, linked to cerebral degenerative processes in type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, and insulin desensitization. Other type 2 diabetes drugs such as liraglutide have shown promising results versus the long trail of failed ‘amyloid busters‘. For an estimated 5.5 million in the US and 850,000 in the UK with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and for those whose lives have been touched by it, this research is the first sign of hope in a long time. AAAS EurekAlertLancaster University release, video

At University College London (UCL), a drug treatment for Huntington’s Disease in its first human trial has for the first time safely lowered levels of toxic huntingtin protein in the brain. The group of 46 patients drawn from the UK, Canada, and Germany were given IONIS (the pharmaceutical company)-HTTRx or placebo, injected into spinal fluid in ascending doses to enable it to reach the brain starting in 2015 after over a decade in pre-development. The research comes from a partnership between UCL and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. UCL News releaseUCL Huntington’s Research page, BBC News

Meanwhile, The National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s All of Us programpart of the Federal Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), seeks to track a million+ Americans through their medical history, behavior, exercise, blood, and urine samples. It’s all voluntary, of course, the recruitment’s barely begun for a medical research resource that may dwarf anything else in the world. This is the NIH program that lured Eric Dishman from Intel. And of course, it’s controversial–that gigantic quantities of biometric data, genomic and otherwise, on non-genetic related diseases, will simply have diminishing returns and divert money/attention from diseases with clear genomic causes–such as Huntington’s. Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Let’s not forget Google DeepMind Health’s Streams app in test at the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust Hospital in north London, where alerts on patients at risk of developing acute kidney infection (AKI) are pushed to clinicians’ mobile phones, saving a trip to the computer and speeding treatment. This is planned to expand to three other hospitals here. NHS is also involved with DeepMind’s AI research at other locations. DigitalHealth.net

For digital health app developers, Research2Guidance (R2G) released the 2017 edition of their mHealth Economics – Current Status and Future Trends in Mobile Health whitepaper (PDF download). It examines trends in investments into digital health, app supply, demand, distribution, and more. Our Readers will recall our invitation to participate in the survey–and our continued media partnership. Hat tips to R2G’s director Ralf-Gordon Jahns, Markus Pohl, and Metka Pinezic.

Telemedicine in Outer Space may help to spur telemedicine in Outer Wherever. Or that is the proposition of this WiredUK article about the history of telemedicine experiments on the  International Space Station (ISS) and the Concordia station in Antarctica. An example is the World Interactive Network Focused on Critical UltraSound (WINFOCUS), which is an international initiative on developing global ultrasound practice and education. 

And if you doubt we made progress in healthcare on a lot of fronts in 2017, this more-than-every-week list has 82 advances with links, including that smartphone camera flashes and microphones can be made useful for medical diagnosis, not just selfies (Telegraph). Those ‘Time Crystals’ could be used right now! Human Progress (Hat tip to Editor Emeritus Steve)

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