AI Health

Friday Roundup

The AI Health Friday Roundup highlights the week’s news and publications related to artificial intelligence, data science, public health, and clinical research.

January 15, 2022

In today’s Roundup: digital phenotyping with patient-generated data; Epstein-Barr virus role in mutliple sclerosis; COVID vaccination effort stalls in younger kids; “growing pains” for arXiv preprint server; pig heart transplantation raises ethical issues; unpacking Medicare coverage decision for Alzheimers medication; digital literacy not the only factor in sharing of misinformation; much more:

Deep Breaths

Relief sculpture from Trajan’s Column showing a Roman military scene. Public domain image via Wikipedia
Relief carving from Trajan's Column. Public domain image via Wikipedia
  • “Now future students can view the letterforms from below as they were intended to be seen in the original inscription, with each line of text cut progressively larger to give the impression that all the letters are the same size.” This is one for the design and typeface nerds: a post at Letterform Archive by Stephen Coles describes an updated cutting of the Roman capital letters used in an inscription on Trajan’s Column, based on rubbings captured decades previously.
  • A literal new moon: a group of researchers using the Kepler space telescope claim to have discovered a second exomoon – that is, a moon orbiting a planet in a different solar system – and this one’s pretty hefty: “Dubbed Kepler 1708 b i, the satellite has a radius about 2.6 times that of Earth, and circles a Jupiter-sized exoplanet that orbits its parent star about once every two Earth years, the team reports January 13 in Nature Astronomy. That sunlike star lies about 5,700 light-years from Earth.” Science News’ Sid Perkins has the story.

AI, STATISTICS & DATA SCIENCE

Comical paper cutout skeletons strung on a string against a board fence or wall. Image credit: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash URL: https://unsplash.com/photos/TjREnoQyMQQ
Image credit: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash
  • “Based on powerful deep learning techniques and recently collected real-world datasets, we explored a model that can predict the skeleton of an animation based solely on 2D images.” A preprint by Vo and colleagues available at arXiv describes a deep learning approach to “markerless” capturing of human motions.
  • “The focus of this publication is to identify and describe exemplar groups to dispel the myth that sharing health data more broadly is impossible and illuminate the innovative approaches that are being taken to make progress in the current environment. It also serves as a resource for those waiting in the wings, showing how barriers were addressed and harvesting lessons and insights from those on the front lines.” A Special Publication released by the National Academy of Medicine this week addresses new pathways for accelerating health data sharing (H/T @ResearchMatters).
  • The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has just released its 2022 Interoperability Standards Advisory.
  • “As early as first grade, algorithms from the company’s Unified Insights product line start generating predictions about whether students are at low, moderate, or high risk of not graduating high school on time, not meeting certain standards on the SATs, or not completing two years of college, among other outcomes. “An investigative report by The Markup’s Todd Feathers examines the enormous quantities of data being acquired on school-age children by ubiquitous educational software systems – and what that data is being used for.
  • “Predicting exactly what the virus may do next may never be possible, but virologists around the world have been gaining insights into which components of SARS-CoV-2 are most prone to evolve and which key protein elements can’t change without tanking its survival.” At Quanta, Carrie Arnold reports on how an old idea from evolutionary biology – “fitness landscapes” – is being harnessed to modern technology and methods to provide insights into what disease such as COVID may do next as mutations give rise to multiple variants.

BASIC SCIENCE, CLINICAL RESEARCH & PUBLIC HEALTH

Photograph of a COVID home test kit with different parts of kit, including swabs, bag, reagent tube and instructions laid out on a table. Image credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash URL: https://unsplash.com/photos/vquhB7YWIvM
Image credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
  • “One hundred and fifty years after a French neurologist first recognized a case of multiple sclerosis (MS) in a young woman with an unusual tremor, the cause of this devastating disease remains elusive. Now, a study that combed data from regular blood tests of 10 million U.S. soldiers has found the strongest evidence yet that infection with a common virus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), dramatically increases a person’s chances of developing the rare disease.” Science’s Joceyln Kaiser reports on a new study that firms up previously suspected associations between infection with Epstein-Barr virus and the subsequent development of multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • “The extent of the indirect damage Covid has brought is difficult to measure. What’s known so far, though, suggests that it could outweigh the disease’s direct effects in Kenya and many other African nations. The economic and social fallout of shutdowns is concentrated among the young, and almost a quarter of Kenya’s population is between 10 and 19.” At Bloomberg Businessweek, Jill Filipovic explores how the COVID pandemic has dealt a setback to previous progress in health and education for girls in developing countries.
  • “In this study, sex discordance between surgeons and patients negatively affected outcomes following common procedures. Subgroup analyses demonstrate that this is driven by worse outcomes among female patients treated by male surgeons. Further work should seek to understand the underlying mechanism. “ A startling study of postoperative outcomes by Wallis and colleagues, published in December of last year in JAMA Surgery, finds that women may have worse outcomes following surgery when treated by male surgeons.
  • “Two months after Pfizer’s covid vaccine was authorized for children ages 5 to 11, just 27% have received at least one shot, according to Jan. 12 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 18%, or 5 million kids, have both doses….The national effort to vaccinate children has stalled even as the omicron variant upends schooling for millions of children and their families amid staffing shortages, shutdowns and heated battles over how to safely operate.” At Kaiser Health News, Rachana Pradhan and Hannah Recht report on recent CDC data that suggests COVID vaccinations are lagging substantially among younger children.
  • “But the rise of coronavirus variants has shown how fragile antibody-based immunity can be in the face of a changing virus. Neutralizing antibodies bind to a handful of regions on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, used as a template for many COVID-19 vaccines. Mutate those sites, and antibody protection fades….T cells, however, are more resilient.” At Nature, Heidi Ledford reports on renewed interest in T cell immunity as antibody-based immunity to COVID proves more porous to variant strains.
  • “We found that while the overall incidence rate was similar among children with private vs Medicaid insurance, children with Medicaid insurance were less likely to have undergone CIs before age 2 years. This suggests that access to CIs may still be delayed in Medicaid populations, which may be associated with profound differences in childhood language development.” A study published in JAMA Network Open by Fujiwara and colleagues that examined the rates at which publicly insured vs privately insured children in California received the hearing aids known as cochlear implants found that publicly insured children were less likely to have received the devices before reaching 2 years.
  • At Axios, Margaret Harding McGill has a rundown of a new federal government website that will begin accepting orders for free COVID tests starting on January 19th.

COMMUNICATIONS & DIGITAL SOCIETY

Stacks of paper and binders with sticky note tabs sticking out from pages. Image credit: Stacks of paper and binders with sticky note tabs sticking out from pages. Image credit: Wesley Tingey/Unsplash
Stacks of paper and binders with sticky note tabs sticking out from pages. Image credit: Wesley Tingey/Unsplash
  • “Growth has been explosive. In 2008, 17 years after it went online, arXiv hit 500,000 papers. By late 2014 that total had doubled to one million. Seven years later arXiv has doubled its library again but continues to grapple with its role: Is it closer to a selective academic journal or more like an online warehouse that indiscriminately collects papers?” An article by Daniel Garisto at Scientific American surveys “growing pains” at arXiv, the trailblazing preprint server for STEM fields.
  • “In a large survey experiment involving true and false news posts about politics and COVID-19, we found that digital literacy is indeed an important predictor of the ability to tell truth from falsehood when judging headline accuracy. However, digital literacy is not a robust predictor of users’ intentions to share true versus false headlines. This observation resonates with recent observations of a substantial disconnect between accuracy judgments and sharing intentions.” In a paper published in Misinformation Review, a group of researchers from MIT’s Sloan School present findings from a study of the effects of digital literacy on the sharing of online misinformation.
  • “AS [ankylosing spondylitis] sits in a kind of thorny tangle, where biological mystery, gender discrimination, sex differences, racism, and genetics meet. It’s hardly the only “white disease” (a label pasted onto both cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis)…. What sets AS apart is the way patients have begun naming the misogyny and the misuse of race that’s shaped their illness, untangling how it came to be. Even as science shifts, they’ve seen, old clinical habits of mind remain, which can in turn affect the science.” At STAT News, Eric Boodman takes a deep dive into the ways racial and gender-based assumptions have impacted the understanding and treatment of a serious autoimmune disease.

POLICY

Red paper heart dangling from a string, photographed against a white background. Image credit: Debby Hudson/Unsplash
Image credit: Debby Hudson/Unsplash
  • “Bennett had terminal heart failure and was too sick to qualify for a human heart transplant or a mechanical assist device, the lead surgeon said. The pig heart, from an animal created by a Virginia biotech company, was the only option to try to prolong his life.” STAT News’ Megan Molteni reports on the so-far successful transplantation of a genetically modified pig heart into a gravely ill human recipient – and the complex ethical questions that follow.
  • “Many people who are blind or have limited vision are not being tested as often as they would like — and some are staying isolated because testing is too difficult.” The New York Times’ Amanda Morris describes how many of the most widely available at-home COVID tests present significant usability challenges for blind users.
  • “Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a draft National Coverage Determination (NCD) proposing that monoclonal antibodies directed against amyloid for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease be covered for Medicare beneficiaries only under CMS’ Coverage with Evidence Development (CED) pathway.” In the wake of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision not to provide coverage for the controversial Alzheimer’s therapy Aduhelm despite it having been approved by the FDA, law professor Rachel Sachs breaks down the complexities of the decision at Health Affairs.