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What's Up, Doc? Google Tests Virtual Medical Consultations

Posted by Mark J. Miller on October 13, 2014 03:03 PM

Google has found a way into nearly every part of consumers' lives. Now another can be added which gives a whole new meaning to Google Docs: medical advice.

The world's second most valuable brand is testing a feature on a limited basis that would allow US consumers to talk to a doctor in a real-time online video chat about a medical issue.

The service was discovered by Massachusetts-based web developer Jason Houle, who was offered the option to “talk with a doctor now” in a video chat after he Googled “knee pain” on his Android device.

Houle posted his exchange on Reddit on Friday, which immediately inspired others to search for “knee pain” on their mobile devices to see if they were offered similar help.

Part of Google's general advice service, Helpouts, it appears to be free to those who are offered it, but it may carry a fee down the road, as other Helpouts affiliates currently charge for their services.

According to The Guardian's report on Houle's experience, residents of Massachusetts and California currently have access to the virtual healthcare consulations, while a Google Helpouts search shows free medical advice also currently available to to clients of One Medical Group in Illinois.Continue reading...

tech innovation

IBM Predicts Five Tech Innovations Coming to Your Senses

Posted by Mark J. Miller on December 17, 2012 03:29 PM

Smartphones are pretty smart as it is now. But in five years’ time, they could be smelling you to see if you have a cold, allow users to feel objects from across the globe, and see such things as cell structures that are likely to turn into a melanoma. Not too shabby, right?

Some of IBM’s top researchers share the news on these potential capabilities – and plenty more – in the company’s new list of five predictions of innovations that will change our lives in the next five years. The annual "Smarter Planet" look what’s coming down the pike in the world of technology this year is grouped around cognitive computing, another name for trying to get computers to behave more like humans.

“With all due respect to current technology, our computers today are just large calculators,” said Paul Bloom, the CTO of Telecom Research at IBM. “They calculate very fast and lots of data, but they really don’t think.” That is about to change. IBM has released five videos (watch below) to showcase how computing may change each of the five senses — hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and seeing. Researchers, for example, are getting closer to “hearing” mudslides and other natural disasters before they actually occur.

"This is really an assistive technology," commented Dr. Bernard Meyerson, IBM's VP of research. "It can't go off on its own. It's not designed to do that. What it's designed to do, in fact, is respond to a human in an assistive manner. But by providing a human-style of input, it's freed us from the task of programming and moved to the task of training. It simply has — not more intelligence — but more bandwidth, and there's a huge difference between the two."Continue reading...

in it to win it

Why Novartis is Committing $20M to Cancer Research Trial? Hope, and Emily

Posted by Sheila Shayon on December 17, 2012 02:02 PM

Young Emily Whitehead, who turned 7 in May, was saved from near death from leukemia after relapsing twice after chemotherapy – and with all viable options running out. In desperation, her parents sought experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, using a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS to reprogram her immune system genetically to kill cancer cells. 

“She is the first child and one of the first humans ever in whom new techniques have achieved a long-sought goal — giving a patient’s own immune system the lasting ability to fight cancer,” reports The New York Times.

The treatment, developed at the University of Pennsylvania, the Times noted in a separate story, “may signify a turning point in the long struggle to develop effective gene therapies against cancer. And not just for leukemia patients: other cancers may also be vulnerable to this novel approach — which employs a disabled form of H.I.V.-1, the virus that causes AIDS, to carry cancer-fighting genes into the patients’ T-cells. In essence, the team is using gene therapy to accomplish something that researchers have hoped to do for decades: train a person’s own immune system to kill cancer cells.”

“Our goal is to have a cure, but we can’t say that word,” said Dr. Carl June, lead of the U Penn research team, echoed by his colleague, Dr. John Wagner, director of pediatric blood and marrow transplantation at the University of Minnesota, who said the Pennsylvania results were “phenomenal” and  “what we’ve all been working and hoping for but not seeing to this extent. I think this is a major breakthrough.”

Cue Novartis, which has committed $20 million to building a research center on the university’s campus to ready the treatment for public consumption. In August 2012, Novartis acquired exclusive rights from Penn to CART–19, the therapy now known as CTL019. Unlike trials for commercial development of drugs like Viagra or cholesterol meds where millions consume the same drugs, Emma’s treatment requires a new batch of T-cells for each patient.Continue reading...

response mechanism

Do Kids Have Fast-Food Logos Ingrained on the B.R.A.I.N.?

Posted by Mark J. Miller on September 24, 2012 03:35 PM

Does your child's face light up when you mention the possibility of visiting a fast-food establishment for dinner? Well, apparently, their brain does, too. 

According to new research of MRI scans of children’s appetite and pleasure centers in their brains, the logos of such fast-food giants as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Burger King causes those areas to “light up,” according to research by University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center as cited by London's The Independent.

Logos that aren’t food-related did not elicit the same response from the 10- to 14-year-olds involved in the study. Researchers fear that the marketers have “tapped into the 'reward' areas of the brain which develop before youngsters learn self-control,” the paper notes.

The research project will be published in the Oxford journal Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN), which notes in its abstract: "Branding and advertising have a powerful effect on both familiarity and preference for products, yet no neuroimaging studies have examined neural response to logos in children."

“Research has shown children are more likely to choose those foods with familiar logos,” commented study leader, psychologist Dr. Amanda Bruce, whose B.R.A.I.N. Lab (short for Behavioral Rewards And Incentives Network) conducted the Pediatric fMRI Logo Study. “That is concerning because the majority of foods marketed to children are unhealthy.”Continue reading...

tech innovation

Magic Arms for Emma: How 3D Printing is Changing Lives

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 14, 2012 12:03 PM

Some people use their 3D printers to create thousands of faces. Some just want to create 3D versions of the 2D video-game characters they’ve grown to love. Others use the technology to create wearable bikinis or replicas of the human jaw or a whole building.

Then there are the folks at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. The innovative researchers there are using the trendy technology to change lives. 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys is taking the month of August to showcase how the technology is doing just that via its Facebook page, YouTube channel and blog, and we dare you not to feel a little choked up as you read on.

First up is 4-year old Emma Lavelle, a preschooler with a congenital disorder that hasn’t allowed her to use her arms. Thanks to the wonders of 3D printing, docs and researchers in Philly can print out a custom-designed durable robotic exoskeleton that allows her to lift her own arms. Suddenly she can feed herself and simply play like other kids with her “magic arms.” It’s a transformative moment, as you can see in the video below.Continue reading...

London 2012

London 2012 Watch: Real Olympics Challenge - Getting Viewers Off the Couch

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 18, 2012 04:24 PM

Just as Britons start greeting visitors descending on London for the Summer Olympics, news this week will either have them leaping off the couch to get moving — as Olympic sponsors such as McDonald's have been urging folks to do — or slump back in despair and reaching for another handful of crisps.

Apparently the 60 million good citizens of the UK are the, well, fattest in Western Europe, and when London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics back in 2005, officials pledged to use the Games as incentive for 2 million Britons to increase their physical activity by the opening ceremonies.

“When the torch is lit July 27," writes the Associated Press, the U.K. "government will not only have failed, it will have backed away from its pledge entirely. Last year, the U.K. quietly dropped its aim to get 1 million more Britons into sports; the pledge to get another 1 million people more active through things like biking or walking to work has also been scrapped.”Continue reading...

London 2012

London 2012 Watch: GE Supports Team USA With Smart Medical Records

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 28, 2012 05:05 PM

“Gold, silver, what’s the difference? One centimeter after a kilometer of competition,” says Dr. Bill Moreau, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) managing director of sports medicine, in the video above. “Our job is to help that athlete to find that last little piece that makes them the best in the world.”

Team USA is taking no chances preparing for the looming 2012 Olympics. The USOC will be using electronic medical files for the first time with help from GE to digitize records for the more than 700 athletes heading to London for the Summer Games.Continue reading...

health matters

Big Tobacco's New Target Audience: People with Parkinson’s Disease

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 15, 2012 05:33 PM

The tobacco industry has been looking for some kind of silver lining somewhere for the past few years as cities and countries across the globe have continued to attempt to make it more difficult and more expensive for the world population to sit back and light a few up. From banning smoking in restaurants to replacing brand names on packaging with horrendous images of what could happen to you if you (gasp) inhale, governments of all shapes and sizes have used many strategies to make life more difficult for Big Tobacco.

Now the tobacco industry finally has something it can feel good about. Its product actually has something positive to share. New research from the University of Louisville has it that tobacco “may hold the key to preventing Parkinson’s disease,” according to the Indianapolis Star.

The key component, the paper reports, is something called tobacco mosaic virus, or TMV, which attacks the plants and “may be protective against Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Robert Friedland, a clinical and research neurologist at U of L, the Star reports. The hope is that this discovery will lead to a vaccine against Parkinson’s.

The study was initiated after a number of studies showed that smokers have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s. Indeed, Friedland warned that people shouldn’t use this new research as an excuse to smoke, since tobacco use has been tied to heart disease and lung cancer, which are much bigger killers annually than Parkinson’s.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation, the largest private funder of Parkinson's Disease research in the world, also cautioned consumers not to raise their hopes about tobacco as a treatment.Continue reading...

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