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Patients could Start to Monitor their Vision Remotely from Home

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Top UK eye hospital tests smartphone app for monitoring vision.

A unique pilot study by the top eye hospital in the UK will see patients remotely monitor their vision while they are on lockdown at home.

The app is meant for patients whose macula is affected by diseases. These diseases include AMD (age-related macular degeneration), degenerative myopia, and diabetes.

With the Home Vision Monitor, patients can keep on monitoring their vision without having to go to hospital. The 350 plus patients involved in the pilot study are undergoing treatment from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

A ‘shape discrimination’ test enables the app to work by displaying many shapes. Patients look at the screen and select shapes.

The results of the self-administered test instantly relay to a Moorfields Eye Hospital clinician, and this saves patients a trip to the hospital. The testing happens twice every week.

The clinician automatically receives an alert when the test reveals that the eye health of the patient has worsened. The clinician will be in a position to choose an intervention. This will enable clinicians to act earlier to stop diseases from progressing and hopefully achieve better outcomes.

After surveying app users, the hospital concluded that the app was easy to use for 93% of patients. 70% felt assured that they were regularly monitoring their vision in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Patients usually test their vision at scheduled in-person eye exams at an interval of 4-12 weeks.

“Exciting new digital technologies, such as Home Vision Monitor, will further empower our patients to actively contribute to the management of their condition, in partnership with their clinicians to achieve the best possible outcomes,” explained consultant ophthalmic surgeon Konstantinos Balaskas. “Placing such tools in the hands of patients will both improve health outcomes for patients and reduce the capacity pressures of hospital-based eye departments.”

Roche global head of ophthalmology Jill Hopkins said: “Supporting such a high-risk group is essential during these extraordinary times. By testing patients’ vision more frequently and at home, the app may eliminate unnecessary hospital visits and escalate urgent cases where needed.”

“We believe that solutions such as these can continue to support patients and healthcare professionals beyond Covid-19 and contribute to the generation of real-world evidence to identify progression trends in AMD,” she continued.

Research has already shown that AI tools accurately detect chronic eye disease in diabetes patients, and these findings show that it is possible to reduce the human labor involved in detecting these eye diseases by as much as 50%.

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A New Era Diagnosing Parkinson’s

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Scientists are on the verge of introducing a cheaper, faster, and completely painless test for Parkinson’s.

The researchers based at the University of Manchester said the new test which is already in sight, will herald a new era in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease.

A research paper published in the journal Nature Communications details the researchers’ findings that demonstrate hope in a new way of diagnosing Parkinson’s that is simple and painless – a skin swab.

The test examines compounds in the skin’s natural oil called sebum which is not the same in people who have Parkinson’s.  Sebum is a protective oily layer on human skin.

“We believe that our results are an extremely encouraging step towards tests that could be used to help diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s,” explained University of Manchester Prof Perdita Barran.

“Not only is the test quick, simple and painless but it should also be extremely cost-effective because it uses existing technology that is already widely available.

“We are now looking to take our findings forwards to refine the test to improve accuracy even further and to take steps towards making this a test that can be used in the NHS and to develop more precise diagnostics and better treatment for this debilitating condition.”

The team worked with 500 sebum samples. All of them were extracted from people’s upper backs. Some of the subjects had Parkinson’s and some did not.

The scientists used mass spectrometry to isolate 10 chemical compounds that become reduced or elevated when the person has Parkinson’s.

They could diagnose people with Parkinson’s with an accuracy of 85%.

Because Parkinson’s takes so long to progress, it can take years for people to visit a doctor because the symptoms don’t become noticeable for years.

Specialists use a DaTscan to see whether the brain is losing dopamine-producing brain cells. This means that a patient is developing Parkinson’s disease.

The trouble is that there are other, more rare neurological conditions that cause the same loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. This makes the Parkinson’s diagnoses more complicated.

Around a quarter of people living with Parkinson’s in the UK were misdiagnosed with something else first, according to a survey of more than 2,000 people living with Parkinson’s in the UK.

56-year-old Daxa Kalayci is a Leicester native who has known that she was living with Parkinson’s since her diagnosis in September 2019. In the four years before that that, Kalayci had been misdiagnosed several times over.

“This test could be a game-changer for people living with Parkinson’s and searching for answers, like I was,” she quipped.

“I am so happy with this news because it will mean that in future people won’t have to experience the anxiety of multiple appointments, long waiting times and sleepless nights.

“The sooner this test is available, the better. Anything that can help people looking for a diagnosis is a bonus.”

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Scientists will Soon spot Diseases and find exoplanets with super Tiny photonic devices

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Researchers working in Sweden have created a microcomb capable of detecting diseases faster and making optical communications systems more efficient, among other exciting applications.

The scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have built the photonic device (microcomb) with the capability to produce optical frequencies on a micro resonator – a minute optical cavity.

Effectively, the microcomb is like a ruler of light that measures frequencies with extreme accuracy.

The microcomb generates an array of optical frequencies whose colors are evenly distributed, making it more or less a ruler of light that measures and produces frequencies with extreme accuracy.

The researchers used a chip to develop a new microcomb based on two micro resonators instead of one. The interaction between the two micro resonators is similar to atoms that bind together to create a diatomic molecule known as a photonic molecule.

The microcomb is a device that is readable and capable of being tuned as well as being replicated into something multiple times more efficient than the best devices available at the moment.

The results are extremely significant. “The reason why the results are important is that they represent a unique combination of characteristics, in terms of efficiency, low-power operation and control, that are unprecedented in the field,” explained PhD candidate Óskar Bjarki Helgason.

This is by no means the first time that scientists have created a microcomb on a chip, but it is definitely the first time that scientists have deployed a second micro resonator to beat many of the limitations that have never been surmounted before.

The arrangement has created a number of unique characteristics. The microcomb is so small that it can sit on the tip of a human hair and leaves relatively wide gaps between its teeth.

These wide teeth mean that engineers and researchers have massive opportunities to explore the possibilities.

The microcomb is capable of making optical communication systems vastly more efficient by replacing many lasers with a single microcomb placed in data centers.

The microcombs have great potential for use in lidar to power self-driving vehicles where they can be deployed to record distances, or to calibrate spectrographs deployed in astronomical observations.

Microcombs are also ideal for making optical clocks more accurate as well as improving health monitoring apps in mobile phones, and increasing the accuracy of diagnostic tests that rely on analyzing exhaled air.

“For the technology to be practical and find its use outside the lab, we need to co-integrate additional elements with the micro resonators, such as lasers, modulators, and control electronics,” explained Dr Victor Torres-Company, who is in charge of the Ultrafast Photonics Laboratory at Chalmers University. “This is a huge challenge, that requires maybe five to 10 years and an investment in engineering research, but I am convinced that it will happen.

“The most interesting advances and applications are the ones that we have not even conceived of yet. This will likely be enabled by the possibility of having multiple microcombs on the same chip. What could we achieve with tens of microcombs that we cannot do with one?”

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IVF gets Better with AI

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An Israeli startup has found a way to make fertility treatments more successful using Artificial Intelligence.

Embryonics has already seen no less than 6 full term pregnancies as a result of their novel system.

Doctors will often inseminate a female egg in a laboratory – a process known as In Vitro Fertilization. During first few days after the fertilization, the embryos will be housed in special incubators and watched continuously by an embryologist.

This embryologist will then return some of the embryos for in-human incubation. This is where it gets interesting because they have to choose what they feel are the most valuable embryos.

“The decision making is subjective, and is dependent on experience and intuition – a factor that changes between doctors and medical centers. Embryonics wide range of smart solutions simplifies complex processes with data-backed insight, aiming at optimizing quality and fertilizations rate success,” says Embryonics founder and CEO Yael Gold-Zamir.

The company says that the success rate of traditional methods of IVF carries a 30% success rate within the US, and that the success rate is even lower outside the US.

The company developed AI algorithms that help predict the likely success rate of fertility and IVF treatments. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of the selection process.

To train the model, scientists watched embryos developing during IVF treatment. As a result, the embryo-pregnancy success rate shot up by 20% and the model allowed doctors to predict the embryos that would not yield a successful pregnancy.

This difference is significant because it saves IVF patients a significant amount of money by making the process more efficient. By increasing the chances of success, it also saves patients from the emotional toll of unsuccessful IVF attempts.

Test Tube Babies become AI Babies

According to Dr. Gold-Zamir, Embryonics has come up with Ubar, the first commercially viable product that more accurately pinpoints healthy embryos.

It won’t be long before Embryonics’ product is in the market: The product could be CE cleared in a matter of weeks, and FDA approved within the year.

“Once regulatory approvals are in, we will start implementing the product in a number of Israeli medical centers that showed interest.”

“It’s a revolution. Traditional fertility treatments resulted in very low success rate. We are going to replace IVF test-tube babies with AI babies – a transition that will create a process that is shorter, cheaper, and less dangerous for millions of couples around the world.” Adds Zamir.

If we go by the findings of Israeli startups like Embryonics, AIDOC, and Zebra, you may be forgiven for thinking that AI medical imaging analysis may replace specialist like radiologists and embryologists in the near future.

But Dr. Gold-Zamir differs: “Algorithms will take over some of the radiologist’s tasks, opening more time for physicians to take a deeper dice into patient care. But that’s further down the road. Currently, all the available tools aid and improve radiologist and doctors’ workflow and quality, with tools trained in millions of different sample sources – a database too large for humans to process.”

The effect of Artificial Intelligence it appears, will be to make medical experts more accurate in their diagnoses, and not to replace them.

Dr. Yael Gold-Zamir founded Embryonics in 2018 and the company has grown to its current composition of 16 people. Embryonics has raised a $4million round of funding with the Schuctermann Family Investment Office as well as the Israel Innovation Authority.

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