New artificial intelligence could help detect heart disease, lung cancer

Researchers at an Oxford hospital have created a new type of artificial intelligence that is able to accurately diagnose scans for both heart disease and lung cancer.

This technology could revolutionize the scanning process and may save billions of dollars by allowing diseases to be detected much earlier. Though it is not yet ready for wide release, the system will be put into use at National Health Service (NHS) hospitals for free this summer

“There is about £2.2bn spent on pathology services in the NHS,” said Sir John Bell, a researcher at the University of Oxford, according to BBC News. “You may be able to reduce that by 50%. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS.”

Currently, cardiologists are able to tell heartbeat timing from scans if there is a problem. However, even the most skilled doctors read such scans wrong one in five times. The new scanning system — developed by researchers at the John Radcliffe Hospital — diagnoses heart scans much more accurately. It can also pick up details in the scans that doctors cannot see.

The system — known as Ultromics — has already been tested in clinical trials throughout six cardiology units. Such results will be published later this year once they are checked by experts. However, early reports state the system has greatly outperformed heart specialists. If confirmed, it will be available for free to NHS hospitals across the country.

The studies show the system is effective, and could help mitigate the some 12,000 mis-diagnosed heart scans made each year. Not only are those problems for patients, but they also cost the NHS roughly 800 million dollars in unnecessary operations and the treatments. Early estimates suggest such costs could be cut in half by the new system.

This technology goes hand-in-hand with another AI system that will look for signs of lung cancer by searching for cell clumps known as nodules. It is hard for doctors to tell if nodules are harmless or not, and the system should be able to make that read.


“As cardiologists, we accept that we don’t always get it right at the moment,” said Paul Leeson, a professor who worked on the new heart system, according to Telegraph UK.  “But now there is a possibility that way may be able to do better.”

HEALTH HND_Disease Science

Rise in Legionnaire’s disease worries health officials

Cases of Legionnaire’s disease are on the rise in the United States and health officials are becoming increasingly worried, according to a report by HuffPost.

Since 2000, cases of the waterborne bacterial disease have risen steadily. So far this year, 6,238 cases have been reported nationwide — a more than 13 percent increase since this time last year.

People contract Legionnaire’s disease when they breathe in water droplets laden with Legionella pneumophilia bacteria.

“A person acquires Legionnaire’s disease from mist,” Julien Martinez, assistant press secretary at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told HuffPost in October. “Most cases of Legionnaire’s disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, to water tanks and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.”

The disease can cause severe respiratory symptoms and kills about 10 percent of its victims. Most people, however, are successfully treated with antibiotics.

Experts explain the increase in Legionnaire’s cases by citing a number of contributing factors. The two at the top of the list are the aging U.S. population, which is more susceptible to the disease, and deteriorating infrastructure.

In addition, heightened awareness of the disease and better detection contribute to the increase in reported cases, according to Dr. Chris Edens, an epidemiologist on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Legionella team, who spoke to HuffPost.

Another potential driver of the rise in Legionnaire’s disease is a warmer climate, which leads to increased use of cooling towers, Edens said.

HEALTH HND_Disease Science

Rev. Jesse Jackson diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease

Civil rights leader and two-time Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Jesse Jackson announced Friday that doctors have diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease causes muscle tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordinating movement.

“My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago,” wrote Jackson in a statement, as reported by CNN. “After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.”

He also said he realizes he now must make lifestyle changes and commit to physical therapy in hopes of slowing down the progression of the disease.

About 1 million people in the United States have Parkinson’s, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. It affects more men than women and usually appears after age 50. As many as a quarter of Parkinson’s patients have a family member with the disease.

Parkinson’s can be difficult to diagnose because no specific test for it exists. It is caused by the depletion of brain cells containing the necessary neurotransmitter dopamine.

The most common treatment for Parkinson’s is levodopa, which converts to dopamine in the brain. When medication fails, some patients can choose a surgical intervention, such as implantation of electrodes in the brain.

“I am far from alone,” continued Jackson in his statement. “I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me. I will need your prayers and graceful understanding as I undertake this new challenge.”


High-potassium foods may help stave off heart disease

Researchers at the University of Alabama have discovered that high-potassium foods — such as avocados and bananas — may increase heart health by protecting arteries against hardening or calcification, according to recent research published in the journal JCI Insight.

In the study, the team fed apoliprotein E-deficient mice — or mice that are prone to cardiovascular disease when fed a high-fat diet — with three different potassium diets: high, normal, and low. They soon found that mice fed with low-potassium diets had much more instances of vascular calcification and increased aortal stiffening than mice that were given diets with a normal amount of potassium. In addition, the rodents that ate the most potassium showed significantly less heart problems than the other two groups.

Heart disease, which kills roughly 600,000 U.S. citizens each year, is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Not only that, but a recent Cardiovascular Health Study of 4,000 men and women showed that 79.9 percent of individuals aged 65 or older develop arterial calcification, which can greatly predict cardiovascular events.

The new study builds on that information and further outlines the different dangers that can come from poor heart health, Tech Times reports.

“The findings have important translational potential, since they demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular calcification in atherosclerosis-prone mice, and the adverse effect of low potassium intake,” said study co-author Paul Sanders, professor at the University of Alabama, according to The Health Site.

The findings reveal that increasing or even maintaining a healthy amount of potassium in regular diets could play an important role in preventing vascular complications. Not only that, but it could also help doctors develop new ways to battle health complications and keep people alive longer.

“With more research, we might be able to see if the disease forms in humans in a similar way and develop treatments,” said Mike Knapton from the British Heart Foundation who was not involved in the research, according to International Business Times.