March 09, 2017

Artificial Intelligence Diagnoses and Other Health Breakthroughs

By Grace Carr
"Chatbots” Soon to Diagnose Disease

A private company could soon provide patients with a full diagnosis by smartphone, without the need to see a General Practitioner. It has already have created a system where patients type in their symptoms and artificially intelligent “chatbots” assess the urgency of each case to determine whether users should go to the ER, pharmacy, or simply rest at home. The company just revealed a more sophisticated model that will allow individuals to receive diagnoses by smartphone. The system would allow doctors to work in tandem with chatbots so that medics can focus on treating rather than diagnosing illness. The chatbot model is an exciting new advancement in artificial intelligence that has been shown to produce faster, safer, and more accurate results than human diagnoses on average. By turning the technology into a mobile app that can be accessed more quickly than the online version, the company could greatly increase the availability of medial prognoses. These robots are not meant to replace doctors, but can provide doctors with valuable support.

Alphabet artificial intelligence to diagnose cancer

Determining whether a patient has cancer requires professionals to scan tissue samples over weeks and months, often dangerously allowing the disease to further develop during this period. But an artificial intelligence program owned by Alphabet, Google's parent company, may be able to flag cancer much faster. The program automatically detects and localizes tumors from images as small as 100 ×100 pixels. The program uses high-level image recognition technology that was first developed for Google’s driverless car program, in order to help the vehicles scan for road obstructions. The program is more accurate than regular human doctors, detecting 92.4% of the tumors, relative to 73.2% detected by human specialists. While the program appears to have a promising future, it is unlikely to replace human pathologists any time soon. The software currently only looks for cancerous tissue and is not able to pick up any irregularities that a human doctor could spot.

Breath Monitor Detects Flu

A University of Texas Professor has invented a flu breathalyzer that makes it possible to diagnose flu cases at home. The device will save people money and unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office. Currently nurses use nasal swabs to detect the flu in all ages, a process which can be uncomfortable and take up to half an hour. With the breathalyzer, sensors can zero in on a chemical in the breath, and can pinpoint the virus in milliseconds. Earlier detection could mean a shorter flu cycle, and the breathalyzer will eventually be available in drugstores, if it is able to overcome government regulatory hurdles.

Teenager's sickle cell reversed with world-first therapy

Humanity has successfully reversed sickle cell disease for the first time, curing a teenaged boy in Paris. Scientists altered the genetic instructions in the patient’s bone marrow to produce healthy red blood cells. The therapy has worked for 15 months and the teen is no longer on any medication. Doctors removed the patient’s bone marrow and genetically altered it in a lab to compensate for the defect in his DNA. After infecting the bone marrow with a “good” virus carrying new, correct instructions, the bone marrow was put back into the patient. Since receiving the treatment, the patient has no sign of the disease, no pain, and no longer requires transfusions. The study shows the potential power of gene therapy to transform the lives of people with sickle cell disease. Researchers hope that after more clinical trials, this procedure may be adopted as a cure for sickle cell disease. Currently the expensive procedure can only be carried out in cutting-edge hospitals and laboratories, but with further development may one day become available in poor areas of Africa, where most sickle cell disease sufferers live.