The Digital Health Newsletter by Paul Sonnier
August 14, 2017
News, Insights, and Context on the Digital Health Revolution
The Internet of DNA (my term) may be  vulnerable to hacking in a similar way to the Internet of Things (IoT) and other computing devices. When DNA is transcribed, computers read the four bases (A, T, G, and C) and turn them into binary data: 1s and 0s. Once this is completed, the now-binary DNA code can escape the sequencing program and execute commands in the sequencing machine itself and/or downstream computing systems. Fortunately, this was just a test and the real-world risk remains low at present time. 
A team of Chinese University of Hong Kong researchers led by Dennis Lo has published a  study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating that an inexpensive genetic test called a "liquid biopsy" (blood test) can detect tumor DNA and result in early cure of the disease in patients. The study was done on individuals screened for nasopharyngeal cancer.
Color Genomics — which is best known as a provider of tests for genes related to cancer risk — has just introduced a new ' Hereditary High Cholesterol Test', which tests 3 genes known to cause Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH). About 1 in 50 people with high cholesterol are born with FH, which causes very high levels of cholesterol and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. While some critics in the medical establishment (cardiologists) say that routine cholesterol testing is just as good at identifying risk, it turns out that patients told that they have FH stop taking their cholesterol medicines 20% of the time, while other patients with high cholesterol (including those with undiagnosed FH) quit their meds a whopping 60% of the time. 

Moreover, as Matthew Herper at Forbes reports, "Patients with FH usually start having high cholesterol in childhood, but doctors often don’t spot the problem until they are at middle age, when years of plaque buildup has already done its damage." He adds that there "may also be some value in treating these patients differently from other people who have high cholesterol."
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"Digital health is the convergence of the digital and genomic revolutions with health, healthcare, living, and society." - Paul Sonnier
In CRISPR news, it turns out that the  gene editing tool has the ability to create piglets free of viruses that might create diseases in humans. This holds major implications for enabling organ transplants into humans.
Images of the new Fitbit smartwatch reveal that the company may switch from using green LED optical sensors to infrared sensors for heart rate monitoring. The watch will have an array of apps from partners plus an SDK for other app-developers. Expected availability is this year's holiday shopping season.
Samsung has filed a listing with the FCC for its long-rumored " Samsung Gear Sport" digital health wearable. The device, which looks more like a smartwatch than a fitness band, may be revealed during the company's Unpacked event on August 23.   
Sports and fitness club Planet Fitness recently surpassed 10 million members. The company's CEO states that this is a result of strong marketing, inclusiveness, and by competing with non-fitness activities, like movie theaters & restaurants. The company also has an app, but it seems to be less of a focus compared to companies like Under Armour, which has nearly  190 million users of their apps. Perhaps Planet Fitness should consider 'virtual gyms' as competitors, too.
MSNBC recently aired a segment on the opioid drug addiction crisis in America. Inexplicably, however, while explaining that people can order Fentanyl (an opioid pain medication with a rapid onset and short duration of action) online from China, the presenters actually provided step-by-step instructions as to how consumers can do this themselves.
CNET is apparently fascinated with digital health-related sex, and has put together a special report on the topic. Titled " Welcome to your future sex life: Birds do it, bees do it, robots do it", the report — described as "Turned On" — explores the intersection of technology and sex. One company featured is San Diego-based AI-sex doll maker Abyss Creations, known for its Real Doll.
In a fascinating and sometimes hilarious article about the experiences and stories heard by a reporter working as a butler at NYC's Plaza Hotel, it was interesting to discover that the hotel's guest relations department uses social media to research every one of its guests. LinkedIn topped the list of sites used by the hotel's staff to better understand and meet the needs of their guests.
Are your neighbors being noisy at 3am or do you want to ensure that your Airbnb renters or rental tenants aren't having loud parties? NoiseAware offers a system that can  track nuisance noise in apartments and other building. The system does not track the content of the sound (e.g. conversations), but is capable of alerting landlords with a text message when noise volumes and/or trends exceed a certain threshold.
In what I hope is a rhetorical question, NPR published an article titled " You Can Order a Dozen STD Tests Online — But Should You?". Obviously the answer is yes. It overcomes issues in testing, including stigma and inconvenience. 
According to a new health benefits survey report by The National Business Group on Health, 56% of employers plan to offer telehealth for behavioral health services as a covered benefit in 2018. This is more than double the percentage this year.
Researchers at the University of California San Diego — in collaboration with CARI Therapeutics of the University's Qualcomm Institute Innovation Space — are developing a biosensor to detect the presence of opioids in patients in recovery. The research received a funding boost of $235,000 from the NIH's National Institute of Drug Abuse's Small Technology Transfer Innovation Research.
Vivek Ramaswamy's Roivant Sciences has raised $1.1B to use AI to estimate the chances of success of drugs in clinical trials. Roivant has typically focused on more traditional pharma and biotech ventures, including Arbutus (viral diseases), Axovant (neurology), Myovant (women’s health and endocrine diseases), Dermavant (dermatology), Enzyvant (rare diseases), and Urovant (urology).
A new study published in the journal Nature takes a look at the characterization of noncoding regulatory DNA in the human genome. As the researchers point out, "genetic variants associated with common diseases are usually located in noncoding parts of the human genome. Delineation of the full repertoire of functional noncoding elements, together with efficient methods for probing their biological roles, is therefore of crucial importance."
In another example of the potential use of DNA as wearable tech, researchers have created  CRISPR skin grafts that trigger the release of insulin and could one day replace insulin shots for diabetes. When tested in mice, the grafts resulted in less weight gain and a reversed resistance to insulin. While not a diabetes cure, this method could provide a safe way for people with diabetes and obesity to better maintain their glucose levels.

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