Health in the future: intelligent diagnostics, networked health surveillance

What if your smartphone could tell if you are sick before you had a scratch in your throat or screen for malaria? What if your social network could prevent an epidemic? Webcam spot an illness in your retinas? It's all in the works, and networked health surveillance tools and intelligent diagnostics are the future.

Advanced technologies to detect viral infections 
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research arm of the US Department of Defense (DOD), tapped researchers at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy in September 2009 "to design a portable, easy-to-use diagnostic device that can reveal who is infected with an upper respiratory virus before the first cough or sneeze."

DARPA contributed $19.5 million to the effort that according to the tech magazine Wired on May 13, has come a long way fast. The researchers led by Geoffrey S. Ginsburg, MD, PhD, founding director of the Center for Genomic Medicine at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, are now screening 80 healthy people in four different studies where they "were exposed to three different viral strains. Their blood, saliva and urine were then tested for ‘viral specific signatures,' that would characterize illness."

Provided this works, the DOD will be able to manage an illness 24 hours before a soldier feels the onset and the benefits should lead to new diagnostic options for the public too. Ginsberg cautions it's a few years away but it will eliminate the overuse of antibiotics.

He added, "Imagine a sensor attached to your telephone, that instantly diagnoses viral agents and transmits that to a central community database." He noted that "Google used searches to beat the CDC at tracking H1N1 - this would be surveillance that could take that to the next level." http://www.genome.duke.edu/people/faculty/ginsburg/

Webcam and software for eye test
In the future it may be possible to simply check your eyes with a webcam that will screen to see if your retinas show any signs of vision-related illness. For now, researchers at the new start-up Automated Medical Diagnostics (AMDx) fueled by the co-founders from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Edward Chaum, an ophthalmologist and a scientist, and Ken Tobin, systems engineer, are developing the technology to detect "diabetic retinopathy," disease that can cause blindness, in advance of any vision problems or blurriness, announced ORNL on May 5.

The vision screening will work by taking "pictures of the retina" with "web-based technology [that] uses a digital camera" under the supervision of a health professional. The retinal image is then "processed through the patented system that quickly sorts through large databases and finds visually similar images representing equivalent states of diabetic eye disease" ensuring rapid results.  http://www.ornl.gov/info/press_releases/get_press_release.cfm?ReleaseNumber=mr20100505-00

Social networking may catch outbreaks early
Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, an internist, social scientist and professor of medical sociology, medicine, and sociology at Harvard University, and James H. Fowler, a political scientist specializing in social networks and professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, collaborated on a research project that analyzed "friends" to determine flu outbreaks (both seasonal and swine) at Harvard in 2009.

The researchers monitored 744 Harvard students by identifying random individuals and selecting their three most popular friends and those "most central" in order to analyze the spread of the flu. The novel approach showed promising evidence that social networks could be a valuable tool for keeping communities healthy and preventing large outbreaks.

The study, according to the May 14 print edition of The Economist, a global current events magazine, has been submitted to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for publication . It is currently available for download via arVix.org, a research online database linked to Cornell University Library. http://arxiv.org/abs/1004.4792

Smartphone for malaria screening
Aydogan Ozcan, PhD, electrical engineer and assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, was awarded with a $100,000 (€78,880) grant for an innovative global health solution: cell phone microscope to diagnose malaria by the Grand Challenges Explorations, a five-year $100 million (€78 million) initiative to promote innovation in global health funded by the Gates Foundation, on May 10.

If Ozcan is successful, he will be able to make smarter phones with diagnostic capabilities. Screening for malaria is costly and time-consuming for much of the world that suffers the greatest from it.

Do you have an actionable idea for a "health in the future" solution? It may be possible to squeeze an application in for the next (fifth) round of Grand Challenges Explorations that closes on May 19 (grantees to be announced in October). The topics trend towards intelligent diagnostics, including:

- Low-Cost Cell Phone-Based Applications for Priority Global Health Conditions
- New Technologies to Improve the Health of Mothers and Newborns

To apply and learn more about the Grand Challenges Explorations, go to: http://www.grandchallenges.org

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

    £50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Co-Ordinator - FF&E

    £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior FF&E Project Co-ordinator is re...

    Recruitment Genius: Part Time Carer / Support Worker plus Bank Support

    £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A delightful, 11 year old boy who lives in t...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Furniture Installer / Driver

    £20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Furniture Installer /...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor