Health


Google Is Training Machines to Predict When a Patient Will Die

18th June 2018

A woman with late-stage breast cancer came to a city hospital, fluids already flooding her lungs. She saw two doctors and got a radiology scan. The hospital’s computers read her vital signs and estimated a 9.3 percent chance she would die during her stay.

Then came Google’s turn. An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman — 175,639 data points — and rendered its assessment of her death risk: 19.9 percent. She passed away in a matter of days.

The harrowing account of the unidentified woman’s death was published by Google in May in research highlighting the health-care potential of neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence software that’s particularly good at using data to automatically learn and improve. Google had created a tool that could forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die.

What impressed medical experts most was Google’s ability to sift through data previously out of reach: notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts. The neural net gobbled up all this unruly information then spat out predictions. And it did it far faster and more accurately than existing techniques. Google’s system even showed which records led it to conclusions.

Hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers have been trying for years to better use stockpiles of electronic health records and other patient data. More information shared and highlighted at the right time could save lives — and at the very least help medical workers spend less time on paperwork and more time on patient care. But current methods of mining health data are costly, cumbersome and time consuming.

As much as 80 percent of the time spent on today’s predictive models goes to the “scut work” of making the data presentable, said Nigam Shah, an associate professor at Stanford University, who co-authored Google’s research paper, published in the journal Nature. Google’s approach avoids this. “You can throw in the kitchen sink and not have to worry about it,” Shah said.

Google’s next step is moving this predictive system into clinics, AI chief Jeff Dean told Bloomberg News in May. Dean’s health research unit — sometimes referred to as Medical Brain — is working on a slew of AI tools that can predict symptoms and disease with a level of accuracy that is being met with hope as well as alarm.

Inside the company, there’s a lot of excitement about the initiative. “They’ve finally found a new application for AI that has commercial promise,” one Googler says. Since Alphabet Inc.’s Google declared itself an “AI-first” company in 2016, much of its work in this area has gone to improve existing internet services. The advances coming from the Medical Brain team give Google the chance to break into a brand new market — something co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have tried over and over again.

Software in health care is largely coded by hand these days. In contrast, Google’s approach, where machines learn to parse data on their own, “can just leapfrog everything else,” said Vik Bajaj, a former executive at Verily, an Alphabet health-care arm, and managing director of investment firm Foresite Capital. “They understand what problems are worth solving,” he said. “They’ve now done enough small experiments to know exactly what the fruitful directions are.”

Dean envisions the AI system steering doctors toward certain medications and diagnoses. Another Google researcher said existing models miss obvious medical events, including whether a patient had prior surgery. The person described existing hand-coded models as “an obvious, gigantic roadblock” in health care. The person asked not to be identified discussing work in progress.

For all the optimism over Google’s potential, harnessing AI to improve health-care outcomes remains a huge challenge. Other companies, notably IBM’s Watson unit, have tried to apply AI to medicine but have had limited success saving money and integrating the technology into reimbursement systems.

Google has long sought access to digital medical records, also with mixed results. For its recent research, the internet giant cut deals with the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Chicago for 46 billion pieces of anonymous patient data. Google’s AI system created predictive models for each hospital, not one that parses data across the two, a harder problem. A solution for all hospitals would be even more challenging. Google is working to secure new partners for access to more records.

A deeper dive into health would only add to the vast amounts of information Google already has on us. “Companies like Google and other tech giants are going to have a unique, almost monopolistic, ability to capitalize on all the data we generate,” said Andrew Burt, chief privacy officer for data company Immuta. He and pediatric oncologist Samuel Volchenboum wrote a recent column arguing governments should prevent this data from becoming “the province of only a few companies,” like in online advertising where Google reigns.

Google is treading carefully when it comes to patient information, particularly as public scrutiny over data-collection rises. Last year, British regulators slapped DeepMind, another Alphabet AI lab, for testing an app that analyzed public medical records without telling patients that their information would be used like this. With the latest study, Google and its hospital partners insist their data is anonymous, secure and used with patient permission. Volchenboum said the company may have a more difficult time maintaining that data rigor if it expands to smaller hospitals and health-care networks.

Still, Volchenboum believes these algorithms could save lives and money. He hopes health records will be mixed with a sea of other stats. Eventually, AI models could include information on local weather and traffic — other factors that influence patient outcomes. “It’s almost like the hospital is an organism,” he said.

Few companies are better poised to analyze this organism than Google. The company and its Alphabet cousin, Verily, are developing devices to track far more biological signals. Even if consumers don’t take up wearable health trackers en masse, Google has plenty of other data wells to tap. It knows the weather and traffic. Google’s Android phones track things like how people walk, valuable information for measuring mental decline and some other ailments. All that could be thrown into the medical algorithmic soup.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/2018/06/18/google-is-training-machines-to-predict-when-a-patient-will-die

Landmark lawsuit claims Monsanto hid cancer danger of weedkiller for decades

23rd May 2018

At the age of 46, DeWayne Johnson is not ready to die. But with cancer spread through most of his body, doctors say he probably has just months to live. Now Johnson, a husband and father of three in California, hopes to survive long enough to make Monsanto take the blame for his fate.

On 18 June, Johnson will become the first person to take the global seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost.

Last week Judge Curtis Karnow issued an order clearing the way for jurors to consider not just scientific evidence related to what caused Johnson’s cancer, but allegations that Monsanto suppressed evidence of the risks of its weed killing products. Karnow ruled that the trial will proceed and a jury would be allowed to consider possible punitive damages.

“The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions,” Karnow wrote. “Thus there are triable issues of material fact.”

Johnson’s case, filed in San Francisco county superior court in California, is at the forefront of a legal fight against Monsanto. Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Another case is scheduled for trial in October, in Monsanto’s home town of St Louis, Missouri.

The lawsuits challenge Monsanto’s position that its herbicides are proven safe and assert that the company has known about the dangers and hidden them from regulators and the public. The litigants cite an assortment of research studies indicating that the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicides, a chemical called glyphosate, can lead to NHL and other ailments. They also cite research showing glyphosate formulations in its commercial-end products are more toxic than glyphosate alone. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015.

Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies” that revealed dangers of its herbicides, and led a “prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince government agencies, farmers and consumers that Roundup was safe, according to Johnson’s lawsuit.

“We look forward to exposing how Monsanto hid the risk of cancer and polluted the science,” said Michael Miller, Johnson’s attorney. “Monsanto does not want the truth about Roundup and cancer to become public.”

 

 

 

 

 

source/read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/22/monsanto-trial-cancer-weedkiller-roundup-dewayne-johnson?CMP=share_btn_fb&page=with%3Aimg-2#img-2

 

 

Warning about procedure that REANIMATES human brain after death

8th May 2018

Yale University scientists announced last month they had managed to successfully bring the brains of 100 slaughtered pigs back to life.

The reanimated brains were kept in this state for 36 hours before they died.

And the team said the same procedure will work on primates – humans closest animal ancestor.

They hope the process could be used to further the study of human organs when they are outside the body, which could lead to huge medical advances.

Although the pigs never actually regained consciousness, the team believe it could be possible to actually restore some level of awareness.

But leading academics have branded the procedure nightmarish, saying it raises all kinds of ethical dilemmas.

Benjamin Curtis, a Nottingham Trent ethics and philosophy lecturer, said if it was done on humans it would be a “living hell” for them.

He said: “Even if your conscious brain were kept alive after your body had died, you would have to spend the foreseeable future as a disembodied brain in a bucket, locked away inside your own mind without access to the sense that allows us to experience and interact with the world.

“In the best case scenario, you would be spending your life with only your own thoughts for company.

“Some have argued that even with a fully functional body, immortality would be tedious. With absolutely no contact to external reality it might just be a living hell.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/700985/yale-experiment-brain-reanimated-pigs-life-after-death

Mobile phone cancer warning as malignant brain tumours double

3rd May 2018

resh fears have been raised over the role of mobile phones in brain cancer after new evidence revealed rates of a malignant type of tumour have doubled in the last two decades.

Charities and scientists have called on the Government to heed longstanding warnings about the dangers of radiation after a fresh analysis revealed a more “alarming” trend in cancers than previously thought.

However, the new study, published in the Journal of Public Health and Environment, has stoked controversy among scientists, with some experts saying the disease could be caused by other factors.

The research team set out to investigate the rise of an aggressive and often fatal type of brain tumour known as Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM).

They analysed 79,241 malignant brain tumours over 21 years, finding that cases of GBM in England have increased from around 1,250 a year in 1995 to just under 3,000.

The study is the first recent effort of its kind to analyse in detail the incidence of different types of malignant tumours.

The scientists at the Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment (PHIRE) say the increase of GBM has till now been masked by the overall fall in incidence of other types of brain tumour.

Last night the group said the increasing rate of tumours in the frontal temporal lobe “raises the suspicion that mobile and cordless phone use may be promoting gliomas”.

Professor Denis Henshaw, scientific director of Children with Cancer UK, which is allied to PHIRE, said: “Our findings illustrate the need to look more carefully at, and to try and explain the mechanisms behind, these cancer trends, instead of brushing the causal factors under the carpet and focusing only on cures.”

 

 

Bayer wins EU approval for $62.5 billion Monsanto buy

2nd April 2018

German conglomerate Bayer won EU antitrust approval on Wednesday for its $62.5 billion buy of U.S. peer Monsanto, the latest in a trio of mega mergers that will reshape the agrochemicals industry.

The tie-up is set to create a company with control of more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market.

Driven by shifting weather patterns, competition in grain exports and a faltering global farm economy, Dow and Dupont, and ChemChina and Syngenta had earlier led a wave of consolidation in the sector.

Both deals secured EU approval only after the companies offered substantial asset sales to boost rivals.

Environmental and farming groups have opposed all three deals, worried about their power and their advantage in digital farming data, which can tell farmers how and when to till, sow, spray, fertilize and pick crops based on algorithms.

The European Commission said Bayer addressed its concerns with its offer to sell a swathe of assets to boost rival BASF, confirming a Reuters story on Feb. 28.

“Our decision ensures that there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets also after this merger,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“In particular, we have made sure that the number of global players actively competing in these markets stays the same.”

Vestager said the Commission, which received more than a million petitions concerning the deal, had been thorough by examining more than 2,000 different product markets and 2.7 million internal documents to produce a 1,285-page ruling.

The U.S. Justice Department, which is also reviewing the merger, said in a statement on its website that it would press on with its review and that the market in the two regions was quite different.

“While genetically modified seeds are largely prohibited in Europe, they are widely used throughout the United States,” the department noted. “The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice continues to examine the effects of the proposed transaction on American farmers and consumers.”

China has given conditional approval to the Bayer and Monsanto deal, which has won a green light in Brazil. It is currently being reviewed by Russian antitrust authorities too.

Australia said on Thursday it would not oppose the deal following the divestment commitment.

Bayer has already reached a deal to sell certain seed and herbicide assets for 5.9 billion euros ($7.2 billion) to BASF and to give it a license to its global digital farming data. It will also divest its vegetable seeds business to BASF.

 

 

 

 

source/read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-monsanto-m-a-bayer-eu/bayer-wins-eu-approval-for-62-5-billion-monsanto-buy-idUSKBN1GX14U

Tooth-mounted sensors track what you eat

28th March 2018

You may soon be able to monitor everything you eat in real-time, digitally through a tooth-mounted sensor.  New miniaturized sensors were developed by researchers at the Tufts University School of Engineering.

The small device, made of three layers, would track everything you consume, including glucose, salt and alcohol.  It would then transmit the data wirelessly to a mobile device.

A study set to be published in the journal Advanced Materials explores how the sensors could work in the future.  Researchers they the devices may eventually be able to detect a wider range of nutrients, chemicals and physiological states.

“In theory we can modify the bioresponsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals – we are really limited only by our creativity,” said Tufts professor Fiorenzo Omenetto, Ph.D., one of the authors of the study.

 

 

 

source/read more: http://www.fox5ny.com/news/tooth-mounted-sensors-track-what-you-eat

German nurses need self-defence courses against increasing migrant violence in hospitals

20th March 2018

There is nothing wrong with being from a different “race.” The problem is when you allow an influx of a vastly different culture and expect them to have the same values your culture has spent hundreds of years building. –  TMN

 

Hospital personnel in Bielefeld are increasingly being threatened, abused and attacked, the Neue Westfälische reports. Especially younger nurses report of verbal abuse and physical attacks by migrants. The hospital now needs to take special security measures to protect its personnel.

If something isn’t going fast enough nurses are quickly called “sluts, bitches and incompetent” especially by “Southern” migrants, hospital employees tell the newspaper.

The hospital is now considering security steps like emergency buttons and classes in self-defence. One of the nurses reported an incident in which she needed to resuscitate a dying person and had another patient spit in front of her feet because he was tired of waiting.

Many employees have already quit their jobs due to long working hours, stress and how they are treated by patients. Male colleagues tell similar stories. One even spoke of a threat to his life and that he fears nothing will be done until it is too late.

 

 

source/read more; https://voiceofeurope.com/2018/03/german-nurses-need-self-defence-courses-against-increasing-migrant-violence-in-hospitals/

Should people with ‘addictions’ be euthanased?

Do you believe in Euthanasia? Is it ok for the elderly? The chronically ill? The people in depressive and emotional pain? Recently cases regarding decisions to die have been in the news as the Netherlands passed a law to allow people who are depressed and seemingly cannot recover to end their lives. What do you think of that?

What do you think when it is extended to someone who has an addiction to a substance? Is it the same? –TMN

 

10th March 2018

For all those who don’t think that the “slippery slope” argument is valid, just consider this. In Belgium and the Netherlands, the category of “addiction” is now valid grounds for euthanasia. And tragically, this has already started to occur.

As recently as 2016, a man named Mark Langedijk, who suffered from chronic alcoholism, was granted permission to be euthanased. This is how the heart-breaking scene of his death was described by The Independent:

On the day of his death, he “laughed, drank, smoked, ate ham and cheese sandwiches and soup with meatballs” until his doctor arrived at his parents’ home at 3.15pm.

His doctor explained the procedure, before telling Mr Landedijk to get into bed and to stay calm.

At this point, they all “started crying, my parents, everyone actually, even Mark”.

“We cried, told each other that we loved each other, that it would be all right, that we would care for each other, that we would see each other again, we held each other,” he said. “If it was not so terrible, it would have been nice.

“Mark’s eyes turned away, he sighed deeply. His last. Dr Marijke injected the third syringe. His face changed, lost color. My little brother was dead.”

Wayne Hall, Centre of Youth Substance Abuse Research, UQ, and Malcolm Parker, Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics, Faculty of Medicine, UQ, have written that cases like these are far from being exceptions. They are instead, part of an international trend in relaxing euthanasia laws. As they explain:

The range of medical conditions for which patients can request euthanasia has expanded over time. It now includes not just terminal or degenerative illnesses but any condition that, in the patient’s view, produces unrelieved, intolerable suffering. The grounds for euthanasia in these countries have been taken recently to include intractable depression, chronic forms of addiction, autism and personality disorders and people who do not claim to have any disorder but are simply ‘tired of living’ and want to die.

For their part, Hall and Parker state that their “aims in considering this case are not to argue for or against euthanasia” but to “prompt discussion of this issue within the field of addiction” and “to identify important issues that need to be considered by physicians”.

Against the popular scholarly consensus, Hall and Parker challenge the “disease model” for understanding addiction. They have to do this because, as they themselves acknowledge, “…we recognise that chronic alcohol and other drug use can produce illnesses that may reduce capacity, such as severe depression or cognitive impairment.” What they suggest is their own ‘Twelve-Step Program’, similar to hugely successful Alcoholics Anonymous. Except, rather than helping people to be free of their addictions, it is a checklist to see if it’s valid to put them out of their misery.

Richard E. Ashcroft—School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK—has published an excellent, and concise, critique to Hall and Parker’s proposal, arguing that we should be extremely slow to “accept addiction as a reason for performing euthanasia”. Ashcroft makes two insightful and important points.

First, Ashcroft argues that, “If we are not willing to do so [to view addictions as a brain disease], we cannot see them readily as objects of treatment and medical care, and thus much of the medical model of care and treatment falls away, along with some of the medical, although not all the social, arguments for harm reduction, heroin (or other drug) prescribing in addiction treatment, and so on.”

 

 

 

 

source/read more: https://www.spectator.com.au/2018/03/should-people-with-addictions-be-euthanased/

All Teens Should Be Screened for Depression Yearly

27th Feb 2018

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines to recommend that children 12 years and older get screened annually for depression.

The screening would take the form of teens filling out a self-reported questionnaire via paper or an online device, allowing them to answer questions privately—important given that many young adolescents go to the doctor with their parents in tow and in the examination room.

It’s a huge step in not only de-stigmatizing mental health but also helping address mental illness in its earliest stages, potentially easing later symptoms. “Sometimes teens are acting out or misbehaving,” a co-author of the report told NPR.

“[I]nstead, they’re really suffering from depression.” Research cited by the guidelines indicates that only 50 percent of adolescents with depression are currently diagnosed in their teenage years.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/doctors-all-teens-should-be-screened-for-depression-yearly