Star Trek-inspired personalized medicine is on the horizon | Opinion

This article is part of an op-ed series on engineering fields that will change the world by Rutgers School of Engineering faculty.

By Umer Hassan

Real-world innovations – from submarines to self-driving cars – come straight from imaginary worlds of science fiction. Think Star Trek’s handheld tricorder, a medical diagnostic device that made its first appearance in the original TV series. This sci-fi precursor is now changing the face of personalized medicine by taking the tricorder concept to the next level.

Today, diabetics can anticipate a biosensor able to monitor their glucose levels through perspiration. A biosensor implant could detect genetic mutations as they happen, while British researchers are developing a wearable biosensor that will collect data and assess the efficacy of rehabilitation equipment and exercise.

Other biosensors will be able to quickly and inexpensively detect costly and potentially fatal medical conditions such as sepsis and AIDS. Together with Rutgers University colleagues, clinical and industry partners, my lab has been working to solve these global health challenges with new tools that focus on a highly personalized approach to medicine. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we are also hoping to apply this technology to fight the coronavirus.

Sepsis – the body’s life-threatening response to infection – is not only deadly, it is the most expensive inpatient medical condition in the United States, with patients who develop sepsis often spending days in intensive care units at a cost of $10,000 a day – or more. Recognizing that sepsis is responsible for as many as 6 million largely preventable deaths a year, the World Health Organization has identified the prevention, diagnosis and management of sepsis as a pressing global health priority.

By applying electrical and computer engineering skills to identify new biomarkers and devise machine-learning algorithms, or artificial intelligence systems, we hope to dramatically improve clinicians’ abilities to diagnose, predict – and ultimately manage – sepsis. Simply reacting to diseases is no longer enough – we need to predict them in order to treat patients in a much smarter way.

To this end, we are building an inexpensive medical device that even minimally trained health care providers can use to accurately diagnosis sepsis. This automated device would cost less than $10 a test and be simple to operate not only in resource-limited settings but anywhere where a rapidly confirmed diagnosis of sepsis is needed.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where only one person in eight is even tested for HIV, many of those infected go undetected until they develop severe complications from the disease. In the near future, cheap, disposable biosensors that are as easy and convenient to use as a home pregnancy test, will detect infections with people living with HIV/AIDS in underdeveloped sub-Saharan African nations. A secondary goal is to develop sensors able to monitor a patient’s response to the antiretroviral therapy they receive.

The positive health and economic impact of such sensors would be felt not only in underdeveloped nations, but also in the United States by reducing the cost of a

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Untested alternative medicine dangerous | Inquirer Opinion

This is my reaction to Kay Rivera’s article “An uphill battle (2)” (Opinion, 10/26/20). I agree that alternative medicine, which includes natural remedies and traditional cures, should not be outrightly dismissed.

This is so because they can be effective. However, they should also not be outrightly accepted because they haven’t been tested. Promoters may claim that they have been proven effective and safe, but they haven’t undergone clinical trials. In contrast, mainstream practices and medicines have been thoroughly studied for efficacy, dosage, precautions, limitations, risks, contraindications, and safety. This cannot be said of alternative medicine.

Testimonials seem to show that alternative medicine works. However medical testimonials are unacceptable in scientific journals, and court and Food and Drug Administration approval, for three reasons. First, since some conditions are self-limiting, the improved condition may not be due to the intervention. For example, common colds disappear in about one week. Some cancers simply disappear without intervention.

Second, the symptoms of some diseases vary. Thus, the cessation of a symptom may not be due to the intervention. Third, the cure may be due to the placebo effect, placebos being around only 20 to 30 percent effective.

Accepting an untested medical cure has three dangers. First, if the cure does not work, you will have wasted money. Second, if you don’t avail yourself of or discontinue a mainstream cure, you might deteriorate. Third, if the unconventional approach is dangerous, your life will be at risk. For example, some leaves used as herbal medicine may contain toxic alkaloids.

Rivera wishes to integrate mainstream and alternative medicine, but I think the latter must be thoroughly studied first. If not, such integration will simply blend effective and safe medicine with a possibly ineffective and dangerous one. The good news is that there has been research on traditional medicinal plants as Rivera mentioned.

Some people do not trust Western medicine. Would they rather trust untested medicine based on unreliable testimonials? If mainstream medicine is risky, untested alternative medicine is far riskier.

Jori Gervasio R. Benzon,Zamora, Pandacan, Manila, [email protected]


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For the health of the nation, shouldn’t Johnson’s medical fitness for office be scrutinised? | Catherine Bennett | Opinion

Just six words, Doctor Who said, would be enough to bring down the unprincipled prime minister Harriet Jones. “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

Would it work on a man? Time to find out. “I have read a lot of nonsense recently, about how my own bout of Covid has somehow robbed me of my mojo,” Boris Johnson said in his party conference speech. Was he thinking of the Daily Telegraph, where he appeared“strangely out of sorts”, or of the protracted lament by a former fan, the Spectator’s Toby Young: “What on earth happened to the freedom-loving, twinkly-eyed, Rabelaisian character I voted for?” Young cited one theory, “that the disease actually damaged his brain in some way”.

Covid-19 damage featured again in a Times report detailing the exhaustion of a miserable and forgetful prime minister, who was also struggling with his latest infant, whose exact age recently escaped him. “Physically, I think Covid has had huge impact, definitely,” a source said.

“Of course,” Johnson told conference, “this is self-evident drivel, the kind of seditious propaganda that you would expect from people who don’t want this government to succeed.” This seems unnecessarily harsh on some recently prized supporters, yet more unkind to the elderly huntsman Sir Humphry Wakefield, father-in-law of Dominic Cummings, who reportedly said that Johnson is so unwell he will step down in months and should not have gone back to work early because you’d never do that with a horse.

Johnson added, presumably for the benefit of the imaginary seditious propagandists to whom, in dreams, he shows scant mercy: “I could refute these critics of my athletic abilities in any way they want: arm-wrestle, leg-wrestle, Cumberland wrestle, sprint-off, you name it.” And if protecting the population in a pandemic ultimately came down to the prime minister’s victory in next summer’s Lakeland Games, while a non-catastrophic Brexit depended upon the physical humbling of Michel Barnier in a series of tap-room challenges, hopefully excluding the more cerebral skittles or darts, that might indeed have been one of Johnson’s more impressive performances since, well, maybe that time he identified as the Incredible Hulk?

Alas, the most convincing rebuttal of unkind post-Covid-19 “Don’t you think Johnson looks tired/sick/thick/dishevelled/shifty/dandruffy/unRabelaisian” commentary is the one line Johnson can’t deploy: what the hell did you think he was like before?

As it is, Johnson’s affirmation of undiminished mojo seems to have been roughly as effective as reports of Donald Trump’s alleged plan to prove his potency by ripping off his shirt to reveal a Superman T-shirt. Like Trump’s accompanying protestations of perfect health and eternal youth, the (unrealised) stunt only added to his critics’ case for invoking the 25th amendment, which allows Congress to rule a president unfit for office. Regular medicals, even if these duly descended into farce under Trump, also mean that, at least in theory, US politics legitimises public interest in a leader’s physical and intellectual fitness for the job.

However idiotic, Johnson’s boasting about Hulk-level athleticism suggests a measure of respect

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Doctors are not profiting from Covid. We are being consumed by it (opinion)

In the thoughtlessness that has become the hallmark of his presidency, Donald Trump stated at a rally this week that doctors are falsely inflating the numbers of coronavirus deaths for financial gain. These are fabricated musings, seemingly designed to shift blame from his own lack of competence by creating a false narrative for the American public.



a group of people standing in a room: Doctors and nurses wearing protective gear treat a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Monday, June 29, 2020. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened eight weeks ago, pushing intensive-care wards to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the contagion spreads. Photographer: Go Nakamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images


© Go Nakamura/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Doctors and nurses wearing protective gear treat a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Monday, June 29, 2020. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked since Texas reopened eight weeks ago, pushing intensive-care wards to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the contagion spreads. Photographer: Go Nakamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As an emergency medicine physician treating patients with Covid-19, these words are piercing. Back in May, I wrote about the mental health toll that Covid-19 was having on health care providers. Five months later, I wish I could say things have gotten better. With 9.2 million cases and over 230,000 deaths, the stress we face in our field has not abated — we have just grown accustomed to its presence. No amount of cash could outweigh the negative impacts this pandemic is having on doctors.

Frontline health care workers have suffered from increased rates of post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety, and depression since the pandemic began. Most notorious was the death of Dr. Lorna Breen, an emergency physician in New York who committed suicide after treating patients with the disease as well as after contracting the illness herself.

One study found that over 1,300 health care workers in the United States have died from Covid-19. A Facebook group dedicated to the memory of some of these physicians now has over 8,000 members who regularly share their grief. Many of the casualties in the medical profession are young and in the prime of their life, such as Dr. Adeline Fagan, a resident physician who died after a prolonged course of the illness in Texas.

Health care workers have a significantly increased risk of contracting Covid-19 compared to the general population. Those who are Black, like me, have 21 times the risk of contracting the disease. These same workers undoubtedly played a role in ensuring that Trump’s own hospital stay went smoothly.

Trump’s claims about doctors inflating Covid-19 cases are unfounded. While the Coronavirus Aids Relief and Economic Security Act provides additional reimbursement to hospitals for cases of Covid-19, this applies only to a small subset of patients with the disease — those covered by Medicare and all cases must be confirmed by a documented positive Covid-19 test. Falsely claiming otherwise would constitute fraud.

Billing is based on a complicated mix of severity, diagnosis and the intensity of treatment. Trump should know this as it is based on an algorithm developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the federal government structure that he was elected to lead. Trump’s own publicly

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