Issue 14: Googly Eyes, Apple Clinics, and more

Googly Eyes
The scientists at Google’s health tech subsidiary Verily have created an algorithm that looks into your eyeballs and then estimates your BP, age, whether on not you smoke, and the probability of you having an adverse cardiovascular outcome such as stroke or MI in the next 5 years. Verily trained the algorithm by looking at more than 300,000 medical records including fundoscopic eye scans. The AI makes its predictions based on the quality and health of the blood vessels in the fundus similar to how an ophthalmologist would make his/her assessment via a fundoscope. When put to the test Verily’s algorithm correctly predicted the risk of a CV event in a five year period 70% of the time. This is less than the gold standard SCORE method of predicting CV risk which requires a blood test and is accurate 72% of the time. Although far from perfect, the AI advocates cite the lack of invasiveness and speed which are def pros. For now though the models will have to be improved cause 70% is barely passing in med school.

Apple Clinics
Before Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer he told his biographer that the greatest advances in the future would come in the field of healthcare. His prophetic statement was based on his personal experience in hospitals while being treated for his cancer. Apple is making good on Jobs's vision. Recently Apple announced that they will be opening primary care clinics for their employees that will deliver “the world’s best healthcare experience”. Apple will open 2 clinics in Santa Clara starting this Spring and has job listings for doctors, nurses, and designers. Apple loves designers. The clinics will be called AC Wellness. AC Wellness clinics will initially only serve Apple employees but the company plans to expand after testing out its services at its initial locations .

Chinese Herbal Remedy Craze
New Yorkers are buying Pipa Tangjiang like crazy causing the stocks of some Chinese companies to explode. Let me explain. Pipa Tangjiang is a Chinese herbal remedy concocted into a sweet tasting syrup that has been advertised to stop coughing. The chinese medicine has been around for centuries since the Qing dynasty [1644]. Stores in NYC’s Chinatown are selling large amounts of Papa Tangjiang called Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, which is made by a publicly traded company called Kingworld Medicines Group. The craze has caused shares which are listed on the Hong Kong exchange to increase by 27% just on Monday. Because the herbal remedy is an over the counter treatment there is little regulation or scientific evidence to explain how it works. That being said New Yorkers are pumped about taking it and anecdotally it seems to be helping as New Yorkers are totally 'dead-ass' about it.

DASH A Day Keeps Depression Away 
The DASH diet is famous for good reasons. The “dietary approaches to stop hypertension” involves eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg/day. There are some other deets as well but long story short the diet was developed to prevent HTN. Recent studies now show that DASH is not just good for your heart health but also your mental health. An observational study that followed close to 1000 elderly participants over a span of 6.5 years found that those who followed a DASH diet had an 11% lower risk of developing depression while those who followed a Western diet (aka lots of fat, meat, and fast food) had a higher risk of developing depression. Toss out that Big Mac bro and try a dose of that DASH. #DASHisDope

Halt in Personalized Genomics
Many genetics technology companies are betting on the ability of simple genetic variants to predict future disease risk. Some companies want to help guide our lives based on a genetic test. Should I do cardio or lift more weights? Should I go to bed earlier or later? Should I eat low-fat or low-carb diet? The guidelines disseminated to citizens by public health organizations around the world state a one-size-fits-all model. On average, the advice is indicated. However, the fact that each individual is unique and may best respond to a specific set of lifestyle interventions has gained traction in recent years. The hurdle that must first be overcome is to provide empirical evidence that this can be accomplished with correlations to a genetic blueprint. A large study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week investigates the possibility of using genetic variants to predict which types of foods are best for a given person with variations to certain metabolic genes. The hypothesis was disproved and researchers found no difference in weight loss among people whose DNA supposedly “matched” their prescribed diet - low fat or low carb. The conclusion they reached was no different from the age old saying - don’t eat too much and eat real food.