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Identifying the Sound of a Covid-19 Cough with Artificial Intelligence

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It is impossible to pick up with your naked ear the unique sound of a Covid-19 cough. But MIT researchers are now detecting asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 using nothing but the sounds of them coughing. 

We have seen researchers training algorithms to identify conditions like asthma and pneumonia using the sound of coughing. 

A team at MIT was experimenting with detecting the signs of Alzheimer’s using phone recordings when they decided to try the same models on Covid-19.

The team which was based at the Auto-ID Laboratory in MIT, gathered at least 200,000 sample cough recordings. 2,500 of them were confirmed to have tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19. 

The coughs were crowd sourced from a website they set up allowing people to submit their own recordings of forced coughs.

4,000 of the samples were taken first to train the AI model. Another 1,000 were taken to test the model. 

The researchers only had to slightly tweak the model they had created to make it work for Covid-19 instead of Alzheimer’s and they succeeded in detecting the patterns of vocal cord strength, lung and respiratory performance, sentiment, and muscular degradation. These were the four biomarkers that exhibited patterns unique to Covid-19.

After training and testing, the model was ready for a run. They fed it with new cough recordings and it successfully detected Covid-19 correctly 98.5% of the time. For people who had Covid-19 but were asymptomatic, the accuracy of the model went all the way up to 100%.

According to Professor Brian Subirana who is the director of the Laboratory, these findings show that when you have Covid-19, the way you produce sound will change, even when you are still asymptomatic. 

The team is collaborating with multiple hospitals to gather more cough recordings. They hope to boost the model’s accuracy by working with a greater diversity of cough recordings.

The team is also working to put the model into an app that could allow people who may have asymptomatic Covid-19 to pre-screen themselves in a quick and non-invasive way. 

Anyone who is coughing and thinks that they might have Covid-19 could pre-screen themselves before going in for a test. 

Such a model could be used together with smart speakers and  with other listening devices. 

According to Subirana: “The effective implementation of this group diagnostic tool could diminish the spread of the pandemic is everyone uses it before going to a classroom, a factory, or a restaurant.

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Nurami Medical lands $6M making regenerative bandages for post-surgery recovery

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The Israeli MedTech company develops post-surgical application-tailored synthetic graft solutions to help protect the brain and accelerate patient recovery time…

Israeli MedTech startup Nurami Medical, which develops post-surgical soft-tissue healing solutions, announced a $6 million Series B funding round. The investment was led by Almeda Ventures, with participation from Leon Recanati’s private equity investment company, GlenRock.

Targeting FDA and CE approval

Nurami Medical‘s technology is based on biodegradable, synthetic nanofibers with sealing properties for improved soft tissue healing. The company has set out to revolutionize the regenerative medicine industry by providing both patients and physicians an effective application-tailored patch or surgical sealant solution. According to the company, in addition to its initial product offering – ArtiFascia – it is also lining up future projects for tissue regeneration solutions, which Nurami notes are part of a $20 billion market.

Regarding the ongoing clinical trials, co-founder Dr. Amir Bahar, a multidisciplinary entrepreneur and Nurami’s Clinical Director and Operations Manager said, “ArtiFascia’s clinical trial is being carried out at a number of European medical centers. This is a controlled, blind study, and as of yet, no adverse reactions have been documented.”

ArtiFascia is a patented, synthetic dural graft that protects the brain after neurosurgeries by boosting dura regeneration, while preventing cerebral-spinal fluid (CSF) leakage, to protect both the brain itself and central nervous system.

Nora Nseir Manassa, co-founder, co-CEO and CTO at Nurami adds, “Nurami is involved in ongoing efforts for the development of additional solutions for soft tissue repair and healing, for additional clinical indications, based on our technological platform which incorporates novel materials and unique manufacturing processes.”

Nurami Medical was founded in 2014 by uber-talented co-CEO and CTO Nora Nseir Manassa, COO Dr. Amir Bahar, and NGT3VC, a venture capital fund supporting early-stage life science startups. Previously, the company had raised $5 million from a number of Angel investors and the Israel Innovation Authority. The company relayed that the funding will be set towards completing clinical trials on ArtiFascia, and attaining both FDA and CE clearance. The clinical trial will test ArtiFascia in 90 patients, of which 13 have already been implanted with the ArtiFascia graft.

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Breast Cancer: Affordable Tests Could Result in Relapse Risk Z

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Researchers are working on an affordable test that determines the response of a breast cancer patient to hormone therapy to quickly predict the likelihood of a relapse.

Scientists estimate the cost of the test at about 60 pounds per patient, compared to currently available genomic tests which cost over 20 times that.

It finds deviations in cancer cell growth rate after treatment with aromatase inhibitors which inhibit estrogen production.

Researchers observe that using tests could reassure women who could do well under standard treatment and identify the ones are more likely to relapse.

”This important trial is the largest of its kind in the world and involved around 4,500 patients in 130 NHS breast units throughout the UK,’’ said the trial chief investigator, Professor Ian Smith, an honorary cancer medicine professor at the Cancer Research Institute in London.

‘’We have shown that giving patients with early breast cancer two weeks of simple endocrine therapy using aromatase inhibitor tablets before surgery allows us to determine what is the most appropriate medical treatment after surgery for each patient.

”In particular, it helps us identify which patients could avoid chemotherapy with all its unpleasant toxicities. The test is much cheaper and easier than current genomic tests, and we believe it should become part of the standard treatment for early breast cancer.”

A study of women with hormone-positive early-stage breast cancer by researchers team from Cancer Research Institute, London, and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, in a situation where cancer cells grow, responding to progesterone or estrogen hormone, or both.

Of 4,480 patients, two-thirds received aromatase inhibitors, either anastrozole or letrozole, two weeks prior to and after surgery. The rest were treated with surgery, receiving aromatase inhibitors at the usual time, after surgery only.

All patients were instructed to proceed with hormone treatment up to at least 5 years as part of standard care to reduce the coming back risk of breast cancer.

The researchers used a cancer growth rate test. It looks for Ki67 protein in tumor samples to check for any effect of the pre-surgery hormone treatment. The team could find out from the test the patients who were at higher or lower risk to see a return of the disease.

‘’Sadly, breast cancer can return for some women, so a new way to help predict if their cancer will return means doctors could monitor these patients more closely – catching any sign of cancer as early as possible is crucial for improving survival,’’ said Professor Arnie Purushotham. A senior clinical advisor UK Cancer Research.

‘’This research could also have implications for how doctors decide to treat early-stage, hormone-positive breast cancer – potentially triaging women depending on the risk of their cancer coming back.’’

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Tunisian Startup Creates 3-D Printed, Customized Bionic Hands

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A 3-D-printed bionic hand is in development by a Tunisian startup that hopes to provide an affordable solar powered prosthetic for amputees and disabled people all over Africa.

The artificial hand beats traditional prosthetic devices with its capacity to be customized for youths and children who would otherwise need expensive resized models series as they grow up.

The Cure Bionics Company intends to develop a virtual game-like reality system to educate youngsters on how the artificial hand functions via physical therapy.

The 28-year-old founder Mohamed Dhaouafi, CEO and founder of Cure Bionics, planned his prototype in Souse, where he was an engineering student.

‘’One team member had a cousin who was born without a hand and whose parents couldn’t afford a prosthesis, especially as she was still growing up,’’ he said.

‘’So we decided to design a hand.’’

In 2017 at his family home, Dhaouafi launched his start-up. Many of his classmates were moving abroad to gain international experience and earn more money, but Dhaouafi chose a different path.

‘’It was like positive revenge,” he told AFP. ”I wanted to prove I could do it. I also want to leave a legacy to change people’s lives.”

Dhaouafi pointed at Tunisian hurdles that made it near impossible to buy parts from online large sales sites. There wasn’t enough funding and, he said, ‘’We lack visionaries within the state.’’

Dhaouafi combined the money he raised from sponsored competitions and seed capital an American company awarded him and managed to recruit 4 young engineers.

Now they are perfecting designs, trying out the prosthetic hand, and writing code.

‘Climb like Spiderman’

The device works with sensors attached to the arm which detect muscle movement, with AI-assisted software and interprets this movement then transmits instructions to the digits.

The bionic hand is equipped with a wrist that can turn sideways, fingers that respond to electronic impulses and bend at the joints, and a mechanical thumb.

Teaching youngsters how to use them, Cure has had to work on a virtual-reality headset, which ”gamifies” the process of physical therapy.

”Currently, for rehabilitation, children are asked to pretend to open a jar, for example, with the hand they no longer have,’’ said Dhaouafi.

‘’It takes time to succeed in activating the muscles this way. It’s not intuitive, and it’s very boring.’’

In Cure’s description, the engineer said: ‘’We get them to climb up buildings like Spiderman, with a game score to motivate them, and the doctor can follow up online from a distance.’’

Meanwhile, 3-D printing makes it easy to personalize prosthesis with a fashion accessory or ”a superhero’s outfit,’’ said Dhaouafi.

Cure hopes to take the bionic hand to the market within months within Tunisia and the rest of Africa, where over 75% of people who need them cannot access them, according to the World Health Organization.

‘’The aim is to be accessible financially but also geographically,’’ said Dhaouafi.

The anticipated substantial price of between $2,000 to $3,000 is just a fraction of bionic prostheses cost currently imported from Europe.

‘Leapfrog Technology’

Cure aims at manufacturing the closest possible to end-users, where local technicians measure the patient’s and then print custom made-to-order devices.

‘’An imported prosthesis today means weeks or even months of waiting when you buy it, and again with each repair,’’ the inventor said.

The bionic hand is built from detachable parts that are easy to replace when damaged.

It could also be run with solar energy through a photovoltaic suitable for regions with unreliable electricity.

The rudimentary prosthesis 3-D printing started around a decade ago, and it’s becoming standard.

The solution is not magic since specialized medical skills are very vital, observed Jerry Evans, the Nia Technologies head, a non-profit organization from Canada that helps hospitals in Africa manufacture 3-D-printed lower extremities.

3-D printing is still in its early stages,” he said, ”but it is a major game-changer in the field of prosthetics and orthotics.”

‘’Developing countries will probably leapfrog to these technologies because the cost is much lower.’’

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