The Digital Health Newsletter by Paul Sonnier
July 4, 2017
Happy Fourth of July! This is Independence Day here in the United States, a federal holiday that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
In a small study by neuroscientists at Cambridge University, an iPad-based memory exercise game was shown to improve memory in patients with early dementia. 21 people diagnosed with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (a transitional stage to actual dementia) who played an app simulating a television game show made about 33% fewer errors on episodic memory tests than a control group.
In contrast to the above, teen gaming addiction has led China's Tencent to limit play time of a multiplayer online battle game called "Honour of Kings", which has over 200 million users. Players under 12 years old will be limited to 1 hour of game time each day, and kids over 12 will be limited to two hours per day.
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Babyscripts has received $5.7 million in Series A funding. The startup's app connects physicians with pregnant patients, often when a prenatal visit may be required. The company is also launching a moonshot effort to eliminate preterm birth. has received $2 million in seed funding. The startup uses an algorithm to individually match cancer patients with clinical trials listed on CEO Dr. Karim Galil says that “A lung cancer patient, for example, might find 500 potential trials on, each of which has a unique, exhaustive list of eligibility criteria that must be read and assessed.” 
Drugmaker  Roche has bought diabetes management platform mySugr for an undisclosed sum. As John Miller reports in Reuters, Roche joins "a crowd of companies expanding app-based digital health services." mySugr includes a digital logbook for people to track their blood sugar, medications, and physical activity. The company has been working with Roche for the past three years and even received funding from its venture fund.
Researchers at the University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering have developed a  temperature sensor that runs on almost no power. With a range of -4 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, it may one day be used in wearables, environmental, industrial, and home monitoring systems.
According to one of the study's authors, Hui Wang, "We're building systems that have such low power requirements that they could potentially run for years on just a tiny battery."
A report in nature on " A point-of-care (PoC) microfluidic biochip for quantification of CD64 expression from whole blood for sepsis stratification" highlights new technology that could speed up and improve the diagnosis (to the point of its earliest onset) of this potentially life-threatening complication from infection. According to the report, sepsis has "the highest burden of death and medical expenses in hospitals worldwide." 
A long-read, portable DNA sequencer from Oxford Nanopore was recently used to sequence cancer mutations in lung cancers. According to the report, "We successfully applied the developed approach to identify cancerous mutations in first cultured cell models and then in clinical samples. Despite the error-prone nature of the sequence data of MinION, in the case of homozygous mutant alleles, the cancerous mutations could be robustly detected. We observed that the minor mutant alleles were occasionally difficult to detect depending on the allele frequency. The detection of such a minor mutant allele is often important for many clinical cancers. Tumor cells are evolutionally diverse with genetic heterogeneity within the population and samples are occasionally mixed with normal cells."
An investigation published in JAMA Oncology looked at whether a molecular signature (an ultralow-risk threshold of the FDA–cleared MammaPrint 70-gene expression score) can be used to identify tumors with indolent behavior. The study authors concluded that the "assay can identify patients whose long-term systemic risk of death from breast cancer after surgery alone is exceedingly low." According to Wikipedia, "Gene expression profiling is a technique used in molecular biology to query the expression of thousands of genes simultaneously. In the context of cancer, gene expression profiling has been used to more accurately classify tumors. The information derived from gene expression profiling often helps in predicting the patient’s clinical outcome."
Bloomberg's Selina Wang reports on the hurdles Fitbit is facing leading up to the debut of its first smartwatch. The company has reportedly lost several employees assigned to the project and is behind in building its app store.
Aki Ito, also at Bloomberg, tried out 17 wearable device systems in her quest to become more fit. While a personal fitness trainer in the video dismisses all of them as "tricks and tropes", Aki details how effective the MOOV virtual fitness coach was in helping her achieve her goals.
Writing in Forbes, Jason Bloomberg, president of industry analysis firm Intellyx, asks " Is IBM Watson A 'Joke'?" In his piece, Bloomberg critically assesses the implications of the IBM marketing juggernaut, the progress of its AI platform compared to many others from companies that have not received anywhere near the same amount of media coverage, and concludes that "IBM is ceding whatever AI leadership it purported to have to a new crop of far more innovative startups and other AI firms willing to reinvent themselves as the inexorable pace of innovation continues unabated – and that’s no joke." 
China's genomics giant BGI has dropped its plans for gene-edited pets. The company plans to go public in a $251 million initial public offering, but according to Yong Li, a member of BGI’s animal science program, “We have no plans to sell micropigs.” The exact reason or reasons for the cancellation are unknown, but could be related to the negative press and public opinion.
Dame Sally Davies, the NHS' chief medical officer, has called for a gene testing revolution. In an NHS report, Dame Sally advocates for routine genetic screening of cancer patients to more precisely select medical treatments. More than 31,000 NHS patients have had their entire genetic code sequenced and the goal is for whole genome sequencing (WGS) to become as standard as blood tests and biopsies.
Writing in the San Diego Union-Tribune, biotechnology reporter  Bradley J. Fikes presents a primer and Q&A on genomics " What is genomics, and how can it help you?" As Bradley states, "The study of genes, called genetics, has been around for decades. But of late, it has been overshadowed by genomics, which studies all the DNA in an organism. Genomics is a logical progression from the breakthrough discovery of the structure of DNA, announced in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick, a feat that won them a Nobel Prize. The structure gave evidence that DNA is the carrier of heredity and showed how the molecule replicates itself. This in turn explains how genes, whose existence had been deduced decades before, propagate and what they are made of. Back then, the study of single genes was all that could be done with the era’s technology. Today it’s vastly different."
The Department of Veterans Affairs' Million Veteran program has surpassed 580,000 enrollments, but faces an uncertain future due to President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 VA budget. The research project is focused on better understanding how veterans' genes and military service affect their health, with a particular focus on conditions like diabetes, cancer, Gulf War illness, heart disease, kidney disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to Joe Plenzler, a spokesman for the American Legion, "We noticed that in the [fiscal] 2018 budget that $18 [million] had been stripped out from [the Information Technology] appropriation for all of VA research... The total amount in that fund was $20 million."

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Copyright © 2017 Paul Sonnier, Story of Digital Health
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