Friday - - HEALTH NEWS -

The ris­ing cost of health­care is a seem­ingly end­less worry for all of us in the UAE. Thank­fully, there are new in­no­va­tions that can po­ten­tially offer a solution to the prob­lem. Si­mon Stirza­ker, re­gional leader of health and ben­e­fits at in­surer AlFut­taim Wil­lis, gave us his list of five tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments that are al­ready chang­ing the game in the UAE.

Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) An ex­am­ple is di­a­betic retinopa­thy, the world’s lead­ing cause of blind­ness in adults of work­ing age. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Oph­thal­mol­ogy, six of the 10 coun­tries with the high­est rates of diabetes in the world are in the Mid­dle East, and di­a­betic retinopa­thy af­fects 19 per cent of di­a­bet­ics in the UAE. How­ever, re­searchers at Google have used deep learn­ing to teach com­put­ers to di­ag­nose retinopa­thy from pho­to­graphs of the retina. The re­sults, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion showed the di­ag­noses to be above 90 per cent ac­cu­rate.

Biosen­sors Most of us are aware of wear­able biosen­sors such as the Fit­bit. Wear­ables use pres­sure and temperature to help track our daily move­ment, our steps and heart rate. There is even a con­tact lens that mon­i­tors glu­cose lev­els. In­ter­nal sensors are quickly be­com­ing a re­al­ity too. These nanosen­sors can be swal­lowed like a pill or im­planted un­der the skin to mon­i­tor the mi­cro en­vi­ron­ment – chem­i­cals and biomark­ers – in­side the body.

Telemedicine and vir­tual doc­tors

Un­like AI, vir­tual doc­tors are very much real doc­tors. What makes them different is that they can be ac­cessed via the in­ter­net, us­ing smart­phones and lap­tops. Telemedicine is the most im­me­di­ate.

3D print­ing Pros­thetic limbs are al­ready be­ing printed, re­searchers have used it to recre­ate a pa­tient’s air­way, and the com­pany Organovo is us­ing 3D print­ing to pro­duce liv­ing hu­man tis­sue for skin grafts. Neu­ro­sur­geons can print a 3D ver­sion of a pa­tient’s skull be­fore op­er­at­ing and so im­prove out­comes; drugs can be printed to pro­vide pa­tients with the ex­act dosage they need.

Ge­nomics Al­ready we have over 1,500 ge­netic tests and tar­geted ther­a­pies in cancer, which have kick-started a new era of ‘per­son­alised medicine’. One of the big­gest hopes for per­son­alised medicine comes in the form of a sys­tem known as CRISPR. This can be used to ‘edit’ small pieces of DNA in cells, sim­i­lar to the way in which you change let­ters in a word pro­cess­ing doc­u­ment. It of­fers the po­ten­tial to ‘switch off’ cancer genes or re­place faulty ones.

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