Issue 30: Atul Gawande, Gaming Disorders, Boobs, Alzheimer's and more

Atul Gawande to Lead the Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway Healthcare Company.
Atul Gawande Spreading His Wings. Image: Getty Images

A couple months ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he and his big boys, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan and Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway, will start a new healthcare company that will disrupt the inefficient, bloated industry. On Wednesday, the superstar-surgeon-writer-public health researcher Atul Gawande was appointed as CEO of their new venture. Famous for his books Being Mortal and The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande has been a champion of improving hospital workflow and reforming the healthcare industry, to make it great again. This is awesome, but also confusing. For one, Atul Gawande does not have the industry experience in running a company of such caliber and claims. It's also questionable how these tech and finance giants will fix the industry while being profitable. We need more details. After all, will Atul Gawande bring in real insight, or just serve as a puppet? We got four superheroes in one spaceship, but I'm not sure just yet if they are fighting to protect the same planet. But for now, let's see how far this ship can go. Oh, and they really need a name.

Help I'm Addicted to COD4: Rise of Gaming Disorders
Tunnel Vision, Laser Focus. Image: Getty Images

Let's be real video games can be addicting as hell. A couple days ago the WHO finally classified gaming addiction as a mental health condition in the 11th International Classification of Diseases. The WHO (which is also a hella good band) defines gaming addiction as increased time spent playing video games despite increased negative consequences. Or more precisely stated "For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months". Time to get that digital detox and put the Halo away.


The folks at the AMA (one of the largest lobbying organizations in the US and also a high-key physician network) released a statement on "augmented intelligence" this week. Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, a board member of the AMA, stated “Combining [augmented intelligence] methods and systems with an IRREPLACEABLE (emphasis mine) human clinician can advance the delivery of care in a way that outperforms what either can do alone. But we must forthrightly address challenges in the design, evaluation, and implementation as this technology is increasingly integrated into physicians’ delivery of care to patients.” The AMA is predicting that more technology using machine learning will be implemented in hospitals that enhance and augment clinical decision making. The AMA wants med students and residents to be trained on using AI similar to how they are currently trained to use EHR systems. Hopefully the training won't be as bad as it is for EHR use.

Do My Boobs Sound Weird to You?
Image from Caltech: Photoacoustic CT

Mammograms are important but let's face it they're uncomfortable as a motherf*cker. So it's good news that researchers at Caltech have developed a photoacoustic CT. Basically the device uses near infrared laser light to provide detailed images of breast tissue. The device can identify tumors in as little as 15 seconds and requires the patient only to take a single deep breath while the light shines through the boob. Because it's Cali - land of opportunity - the researchers have turned their discovery into a company that will hopefully shed new light (see what I did there) on the way docs detect breast cancer.

Herpes Virus Linked to Alzheimer's
Brain Hijacked by Virus. Image: Shireen Dooling
The holy grail of neurology is undoubtedly solving Alzheimer's. An old idea but a new study led by Mount Sinai researchers found that the super common herpes viruses are linked to Alzheimer's. Yes, herpes can also cause coldsores. Some genes involved in the disease process get interrupted by herpes viruses, especially HSV 6A, 7, supposedly. The inflammatory reaction can also result in plaques in the brain. And it gets scarier. Viral infection from a younger age can seed plaque formation and cascade onto more serious stages as one ages. Keep in mind that several landmark clinical trials on medications to reduce these beta-amyloid plaques failed miserably recently. And the myth that the brain is a sterile sanctuary has been challenged recently, as lymphatic systems were found. We're making progress, but hopefully we have working solutions to these diseases processes in near future.

New England Journal of Medicine Retracts the Mediterranean Diet Study

Considered the ivory tower of medical journals, the New England Journal of Medicine can sometimes fall from their towers. An epic study last year that put the Mediterranean diet as the best type of diet for cardiac health claimed that the diet can reduce cardiovascular disease risk by 33%. Researchers paid their respect to how legit the study was. It was seemingly flawless. And then they found errors in the randomization process of the trial. The paper was retracted last week. Nutrition studies are difficult, but randomized control trials are all about the randomization technique. It was found that about 20% of the participants were not properly randomized; some sites assigned the entire group to the same diet, or the same diet to entire families. It's not easy telling someone olive oil is the best oil. But the public deserves clinical trials done with the best science and statistics.