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.

November 18, 2022

In today’s Duke AI Health Friday Roundup: new report envisions transformed digital ecosystem; refinement in neuromorphic chip design may open new frontiers in AI; March of Dimes report card shows worsening rates of preterm birth in US; potential complications for Twitter via EU GDPR regulations; in-utero enzyme replacement therapy for Pompe disease; totting up 8 years of predatory publishing onslaught; applying regulatory science for better medical AI; much more:


A human figure, silhouetted against a brightly lighted background consisting of colorful dots and dashes arranged in horizontal bands. Image credit: Chris Yang/Unsplash
Image credit: Chris Yang/Unsplash
  • “The digital ecosystem we propose is balanced, accountable and sustainable, and imagines new types of infrastructure, new institutions and new governance models that can make data work for people and society.” A wide-ranging report just released by the Ada Lovelace Institute offers a new vision for transforming the “digital ecosystem.”
  • “This incident and others like it reveal the rising value placed on mental health data as part of machine learning, and they illustrate the regulatory gray zones through which these data flow. The well-being and privacy of people who are vulnerable or perhaps in crisis is at stake. They are the ones who bear the consequences of poorly designed digital technologies.” An opinion article published in Scientific American by Piers Gooding and Timothy Kariotis warns users (and potential users) of mental health apps about the potential for exposure of sensitive data.
  • “…the new chip can perform as well as digital computers on complex AI tasks like image and speech recognition, and the authors claim it is up to 1,000 times more energy efficient, opening up the possibility for tiny chips to run increasingly complicated algorithms within small devices previously unsuitable for AI like smart watches and phones.” Quanta’s Allison Whitten reports on recent developments in the world of chip engineering, where refinements to neuromorphic computing have yielded analog-memory chips that are both energy-efficient and fast, opening new doors for AI previously constrained by the growing energy costs of intensive processing.
  • “Artificial Intelligence (AI) in medicine has grown rapidly, yet few algorithms have been deployed. It is not the problem with the AI itself but with the way functions and results are communicated. Regulatory science provides the appropriate language and solutions to this problem…Knowledge of the regulatory language, concepts, and science should be regarded a core competency for communicating medical innovation. Regulatory grade communication will be the key to bringing medical AI from hype to standard of care.” A new viewpoint article published at NPJ Digital Medicine advocates for the application of concepts from regulatory science in helping medical AI bridge the gap between product hype and actual real-world performance.
  • “…any EU data protection authority would be able to act directly on concerns it has that local users’ data is at risk — with the power to instigate their own investigations and take enforcement actions….probes could be simultaneously opened up all over the EU — including in Member States like France and Germany where data protection authorities have a reputation for being quicker to the punch…” While it has been a dizzying week in the world of social media, TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas points out that things may be about to get even more complex for Twitter, as the company risks violating EU regulations and losing the ability to avail itself of an administrative status known as the “one-stop-shop,” thereby raising the prospect that the company could find itself being scrutinized for data protection violations by all 27 individual EU member states’ regulatory authorities.


A boy with brown hair and eyes looking directly toward the camera’s perspective, wearing a white surgical mask. Image credit: Lucia Macedo/Unsplash
Image credit: Lucia Macedo/Unsplash
  • “We estimated that the lifting of masking requirements in school districts in the greater Boston area during March 2022 contributed an additional 45 Covid-19 cases per 1000 students and staff during the following 15-week period. Overall, this estimate corresponded to nearly 12,000 additional Covid-19 cases among students and staff, which accounted for one third of the cases in school districts that lifted masking requirements during that time and most likely translated to substantial loss of in-person school days.” A natural experiment reported in the New England Journal of Medicine by Cowger and colleagues compared differences in COVID incidence in students and staff at Boston-area schools – some of which required masking and some of which did not – and found that schools that lifted masking requirements had higher rates of COVID infection.
  • “We describe a protocol for in utero ERT [enzyme replacement therapy] that showed safety for both the mother and fetus, as well as efficacy in decreasing placental glycogen deposits. Although cardiomyopathy was present in the patient’s two previous affected siblings, cardiac manifestations did not develop in this patient, who was thriving at 13 months of age. Our results are consistent with in utero ERT attenuating or even halting the disease process in the fetal period.” In a research article published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, Cohen and colleagues describe an attempt to treat a child for Pompe disease while still in utero. An article by Erin Garcia de Jesús in Science News adds some background details about how the therapy was developed.
  • A preprint article available from Nature by Eby and colleagues reports findings that indicate zoonotic “spillover” of viral pathogens from bats to other host animals may be driven by ecological pressures, including habitat loss.
  • “Findings from this study underscore the importance of gaining trust in medical researchers and inform efforts in patient education about genetics and genomics. As precision medicine expands, increasing patients’ awareness about genetic and genomic knowledge will support informed decision-making and improve the informed consent process in cardiovascular research.” A study published in JAMA Cardiology by Ni and colleagues examines associations between levels of knowledge about genomics and trust in researchers in patients being treated for cardiomyopathy.

COMMUNICATION, Health Equity & Policy

An alligator cruises, half-submerged, in a placid body of water. Image credit: David Clode/Unsplash
Image credit: David Clode/Unsplash
  • “A total of 1,280 emails identified as academic spam were received (990 journal invitations, 220 conference invitations, 70 ‘other’). The first email was received 3 months after registration for an international conference. Attempts at unsubscribing were somewhat effective, whereby implications of reporting to respective authorities resulted in a 43% decrease in emails, although did not eliminate them completely, and therefore alternative approaches to eliminating academic spam may be needed.” An analysis of predatory publishing solicitations published by Owen W. Tomlinson at Learned Publishing offers some hard numbers from an n-of-1 study.
  • “…we saw that, for the most part, these publishing platforms had internally consistent open access indicators. The indicators used were consistent regardless of whether we were viewing a table of contents or the results of a keyword search. However, indicators varied greatly across publishing platforms, with different terminology, colors, and symbols in use.” At the Scholarly Kitchen, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe and Kalyn Nowlan present findings from research examining how publishers communicate open-access status of offerings to their readers.
  • “Drilling down, the report only gives one state, Vermont, a score in the A range (meaning its preterm birth rate is between 7.7 and 8.1%). A number of states, including California, Oregon, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, earned B’s. Several states — concentrated in the Southeast — and Puerto Rico got failing marks, with rates of 11.5% or higher….Taken has [sic] a whole, the increased rates of preterm births across the nation knocked the U.S. down from a C- to a D+, according to the March of Dimes’ rating system.” NPR’s Rachel Treisman shares disheartening news from a March of Dimes study that revealed increasing rates of preterm births (and worsening disparities) across the United States.
  • “…these platforms are especially well-suited to make users compare themselves, by constantly showing pictures of others, in almost perfect form….Another, more recent study has further suggested that greater intensity of social media use was associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in social media comparison. This scenario is even more frightening if we consider the business model of social media companies, which often monetize the anxiety of their users.” A post by Sarah Gabriele at Harvard’s Petrie-Flom Bill of Health blog explores the effects of social media, photographic filters, and the continuous comparison of bodies on people’s health.