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Feinberg School of Medicine Launches New Institute for Augmented Intelligence in Medicine

Feinberg promise a People-Driven & Data Powered Institute.

Augmented Intelligence & Artificial Intelligence are the cutting edge of future medicine. (iStock/Getty Images)

A stethoscope isn’t traditionally thought of as augmented intelligence for physicians, but Abel Kho, MD, argues it’s a tool that has made physicians more effective and thus, augmented physicians deliver better patient care. Wearable technology, AI-assisted imaging, smart stethoscopes, digital apps and machine learning can similarly transform the practice of medicine – but Kho says medical professionals and biomedical scientists are critically needed to help shape the development of these next-generation biomedical tools.

To that end, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has established a new Institute for Augmented Intelligence in Medicine (I.AIM), with the goal of augmenting human expertise with computational methods to advance the science of human health. The new institute builds on the work of numerous faculty across Northwestern and unifies programs in artificial intelligence in medicine, genetic analysis, deep phenotyping, ethics and data science.

Abel Kho, MD, -director -Institute-Augmented-Intelligence-Medicine
Abel Kho, MD, the director of the new Institute for Augmented Intelligence in Medicine, which has the goal of augmenting human expertise with computational methods to advance the science of human health. (Source Feinberg)

“Our work is grounded by the recognition that medical care is delivered by people, for people, and that technology alone will not solve our most pressing problems,” said Kho, director of the new institute. “Housing an institute in AI within a medical school means we are solely and uniquely focused on applying AI to improve and transform human health. We are guided by our ‘patients first’ mission and anchored by a commitment to responsible, ethical and open science.”

With Kho, an associate professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, at the helm, the new institute will bring together research, education and sustainable innovation, offering opportunities for faculty, students and trainees, as well as collaborations with other Northwestern schools including the McCormick School of Engineering, Kellogg School of Management and Pritzker Law School.

A focus on getting the data right and spending time to ensure data quality and privacy is critical, Kho said, and will help to ensure the widest range of Northwestern investigators can tap into consistent, high quality and secure data, and can have access to the most advanced analytics tools and computing capacity.

“Our I.AIM Central Data Team is leading the charge to identify the highest priority data access and analytics needs on campus to develop efficient, scalable, and secure data pipes and analysis methods in order to speed up medical AI research and translation,” said Kho, who is also an associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Health and Biomedical Informatics.

The institute’s central data team will be led by: Chief AI Officer Yuan Luo, PhD, an associate professor of Preventive Medicine and at the McCormick School of Engineering; Chief Data Engineer Mozziyar Etemadi, MD, PhD, a research assistant professor at the McCormick School of Engineering and of Anesthesiology at Feinberg; Chief Informatics Officer Firas Wehbe, MD, PhD, Feinberg’s chief research informatics officer and associate professor of Preventive Medicine and of Pathology; and Chief Ethics Officer Kelly Michelson, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Public Health and Medicine’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities and the Julia and David Uihlein Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities.

Kho said that as a practicing physician, it’s critical the institute’s projects will help physicians deliver better patient care, rather than hinder their ability to practice medicine.

“It’s important that we use technology to solve medical challenges without losing sight of how changes can affect privacy, physician workflow, and trust between patients and their caregivers,” Kho said. “We want to be thoughtful in our approach to ensure we’re not adding tasks to the physician’s workload, but rather, reducing mundane tasks. Technologists love to talk about disrupting health care, but with increasing levels of physician burnout nationwide, it’s clear that disrupted physicians can’t deliver the best patient care. ”

The Institute for Augmented Intelligence in Medicine will initially include the following centers:

Membership in the institute is open to faculty from all Northwestern University schools. Those interested can visit the institute website and fill out a request for more information.

Doctors Try 1st CRISPR Editing in the Body for Blindness

Genetic Frontiers Gene Editing Blindness
Dr. Jason Comander, inherited retinal disorder specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston points to a model of an eye during an interview on Jan. 8, 2020. Comander's hospital plans to enroll patients in a gene editing treatment for blindness study. He said it marks “a new era in medicine” using a technology that “makes editing DNA much easier and much more effective.” (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi)

Scientists say they have used the gene editing tool CRISPR inside someone’s body for the first time, a new frontier for efforts to operate on DNA, the chemical code of life, to treat diseases.

A patient recently had it done at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland for an inherited form of blindness, the companies that make the treatment announced Wednesday. They would not give details on the patient or when the surgery occurred.

It may take up to a month to see if it worked to restore vision. If the first few attempts seem safe, doctors plan to test it on 18 children and adults.

“We literally have the potential to take people who are essentially blind and make them see,” said Charles Albright, chief scientific officer at Editas Medicine, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company developing the treatment with Dublin-based Allergan. “We think it could open up a whole new set of medicines to go in and change your DNA.”

Dr. Jason Comander, an eye surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston, another hospital that plans to enroll patients in the study, said it marks “a new era in medicine” using a technology that “makes editing DNA much easier and much more effective.”

Doctors first tried in-the-body gene editing in 2017 for a different inherited disease using a tool called zinc fingers. Many scientists believe CRISPR is a much easier tool for locating and cutting DNA at a specific spot, so interest in the new research is very high.

The people in this study have Leber congenital amaurosis, caused by a gene mutation that keeps the body from making a protein needed to convert light into signals to the brain, which enables sight. They’re often born with little vision and can lose even that within a few years.

Scientists can’t treat it with standard gene therapy — supplying a replacement gene — because the one needed is too big to fit inside the disabled viruses that are used to ferry it into cells.

So they’re aiming to edit, or delete the mutation by making two cuts on either side of it. The hope is that the ends of DNA will reconnect and allow the gene to work as it should.

It’s done in an hour-long surgery under general anesthesia. Through a tube the width of a hair, doctors drip three drops of fluid containing the gene editing machinery just beneath the retina, the lining at the back of the eye that contains the light-sensing cells.

“Once the cell is edited, it’s permanent and that cell will persist hopefully for the life of the patient,” because these cells don’t divide, said one study leader not involved in this first case, Dr. Eric Pierce at Massachusetts Eye and Ear.

Doctors think they need to fix one tenth to one third of the cells to restore vision. In animal tests, scientists were able to correct half of the cells with the treatment, Albright said.

The eye surgery itself poses little risk, doctors say. Infections and bleeding are relatively rare complications.

One of the biggest potential risks from gene editing is that CRISPR could make unintended changes in other genes, but the companies have done a lot to minimize that and to ensure that the treatment cuts only where it’s intended to, Pierce said. He has consulted for Editas and helped test a gene therapy, Luxturna, that’s sold for a different type of inherited blindness.

Some independent experts were optimistic about the new study.

“The gene editing approach is really exciting. We need technology that will be able to deal with problems like these large genes,” said Dr. Jean Bennett, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who helped test Luxturna at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

In one day, she had three calls from families seeking solutions to inherited blindness.

“It’s a terrible disease,” she said. “Right now they have nothing.”

Dr. Kiran Musunuru, another gene editing expert at the University of Pennsylvania, said the treatment seems likely to work, based on tests in human tissue, mice and monkeys.

The gene editing tool stays in the eye and does not travel to other parts of the body, so “if something goes wrong, the chance of harm is very small,” he said. “It makes for a good first step for doing gene editing in the body.”

Although the new study is the first to use CRISPR to edit a gene inside the body, another company, Sangamo Therapeutics, has been testing zinc finger gene editing to treat metabolic diseases.

Other scientists are using CRISPR to edit cells outside the body to try to treat cancer, sickle cell and some other diseases.

All of these studies have been done in the open, with government regulators’ approval, unlike a Chinese scientist’s work that brought international scorn in 2018. He Jiankui used CRISPR to edit embryos at the time of conception to try to make them resistant to infection with the AIDS virus. Changes to embryos’ DNA can pass to future generations, unlike the work being done now in adults to treat diseases.

via – VOA | Source – VOA | Search  》CRISPR Gene Editing

Medicine & The fourth industrial revolution

Individual technology advancements have been vast for the last 100 years, however, the convergence of these technologies we are seeing over the last few years, the speed, the velocity and disruption of change is something which has never been experienced before. To put in context, what is today the widely adopted telephone took around 70 years to really penetrate the majority of households. The personal computer was around for 20 years before it became widely popular. The iPhone took Apple just 6.5 years to reach the penetration of half a billion in a global audience. In more recent years the likes of Uber are now collecting data points of over 40 million monthly users as we go about our daily business. For Facebook in the 13 years, it has been around, has become now the 2nd biggest organisation (in terms number of members) on the blue planet, only a small margin behind to the entire combined Christian religious sects of the world! So it’s clear the speed and intensity that technology is swarming over us is only increasing.

The 1st Industrial revolution in the 19th century broadly brought in the era of automated machines, mechanical innovations and large metal industrial machines which changed the landscape for factory workers and industry.

The 2nd Industrial revolution brought around the ability to mass produce through assembly lines and electrification.

The 3rd industrial revolution through the 1970s to the early noughties brought mainframe computing, personal computers and the internet.

Today we stand on the doorstep of the 4th industrial revolution where radical system-wide innovation can happen in only a few years. The intersection of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, IoT sensors and computing power will create realities which we have previously thought unthinkable. Access to technology will mean almost anyone will be in a position to create new products and services cheaply and with rapid pace – this will disrupt and change the business model of each and every industry.

As the technology moves so fast, and the wave of excitement (by some) gears up to the possibilities ahead of us, It is important to ensure that we take stock, and ask the ethical question to ensure that this is used ‘for the good’. The balance between what we stand to win and what we might lose as a society is for another debate, but one thing for sure is that we must ensure that this evolution happens with humans centred at the core of it and not the technology. Much of the bad press that some of these technologies (such as Alexa recording a private conversation or the driverless car causing injury or death) are obviously not to be ignored, so ensuring that regulations and a universal code of ethics are established along with the technology development is equally as important in my view.

‘The only constant is, change’

But what could this mean for the healthcare industry, a $7.5 trillion global annual spend industry? Few industries have the potential to be changed so profoundly by digital technology as healthcare, but the challenges facing innovators – from regulatory barriers to difficulties in digitizing patient data – should not be underestimated.

By almost any measure, global health has improved dramatically in recent decades. However, the current model for providing healthcare is being slowly torn apart by the opposing forces of an ageing population and greater restraints on government spending.

However, the revolution of technology which has built such momentum in the social conversation through the decades has provided an umbrella to another revolution which has unassumingly been happening – the genetics revolution!

Similar to technology, the human genome is an information processing device; just one produced by biology and evolution rather being programmed with a computer. The 4th industrial revolution will also power the automation of biology, and we stand on the cusp of an incredible take off of genomic technology.

Today, 4% of the world’s data collected is in health data, a relatively low percentage of the overall data collected. But this is changing…fast. By 2030 it is predicted that 41% of the world’s data collected will be related to health. With the application of various techniques from the Artificial Intelligence world to allow for large-scale biology automation, this is posing questions, both quantitatively and qualitatively, that have never been asked before. What is a disease for example, and how does this manifest itself against different genotypes? Rather than a blanket, one-size-fits-most approach, medical professionals will be able to personalize the treatment choices for patients based on a dataset consisting of information that is extracted from your genetic profile (which you have inherited from your family), your daily habits, where you live and other environmental factors. The cost of reaching these outcomes has dramatically decreased also. Decoding the first genome in 2004 costs hundreds of millions of dollars yet by today’s standards, machines can sequence 18,000 annually for around $1000. Companies or initiatives like 23andme have brought some aspect of DNA profiling to the consumer market while the ‘quiet’ revolution in the deep genetic profiling space by companies such as Foundation Medicine and Helix, is paving the way for a real revolution in healthcare and medicine as we know it.

Digital and healthcare are at the core of what we do at Nitro. We love to get into these aspects and how we can help realise, with our partners, the challenges intersecting digital and healthcare. These two frontiers will continue to collide, and ensuring that we do all we can to adhere to the basic principle of ensuring that we keep the human user at the heart of it all and, solve problems for the ultimate good.

UConn researchers design new wireless smart-bandage to heal wounds

UConn scientists from the School of Dental Medicine, School of Medicine, and School of Engineering have teamed to design a wirelessly controlled smart bandage. It works in conjunction with a smartphone-sized platform that can precisely deliver different medications to the wound with independent dosing. The bandage was developed by UConn, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Harvard Medical School.

The bandage has miniature needles that can be controlled wirelessly, allowing the delivery of drugs to be programmed by care providers without visiting the patient. The team says that the bandage is an important step in engineering advanced bandages that can facilitate the healing of hard to treat wounds. Another important aspect of the bandage is that it doesn’t need to be changed continuously.

Designers say that the bandage can deliver medicine with minimal invasiveness. The small needles can penetrate deeper into the wound bed and with minimal pain and inflammation. The team says the method is more effective for wound closure and hair regrowth compared topical administration of drugs.

Testing involved first using the device on cells and later diabetic mice with full-thickness skin injury. Mice in the study showed complete healing and lack of scar formation. The team says that shows the bandage can significantly improve the rate and quality of wound healing in diabetic animals.

There is a potential for the new bandage to replace existing would care systems and reduce the morbidity of chronic wounds and change the way diabetic wounds are treated. Poorly treated diabetic wounds can result in the need to amputate limbs lead to a reduced quality of life.

via –

Robotic Phlebotomist Draws Blood, Automates Hematology Analysis

Advances in Robotics & AI present challenges to traditional Human-Centered occupations in Medicine.

Robotic Phlebotomist
A Robotic Phlebotomist at Work.

Engineers at Rutgers University have developed a robot that autonomously draws patient blood and immediately performs hematology analysis. Such technology may help to speed up patient care, free clinicians to do other tasks, and even reduce the number of failed IV starts.

The device was recently tested in a clinical trial for the first time and the results, published in journal Technology, showed that the robot is as good or better than trained phlebotomists at obtaining venous access.


Currently, clinicians can miss target veins in patients who lack visible veins and with veins that are not palpable. Trying the procedure repeatedly can lead to thrombosis, infections, and other maladies.

The new device uses ultrasound guidance to place the needle precisely into the vein. So much so that in the study, in 87% of all the volunteers blood was drawn successfully on the first try and for those who had easy to access veins the rate was an impressive 97%.

“A device like ours could help clinicians get blood samples quickly, safely and reliably, preventing unnecessary complications and pain in patients from multiple needle insertion attempts,” said lead study author Josh Leipheimer, a biomedical engineering doctoral student at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

To get the new robot ready for commercialization, the researchers plan to spend more time improving how it targets challenging veins. Data from the just concluded trial will be used to train the algorithms that guide the needle.

Source – Rutgers