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Posts from the ‘Medicine 2.0’ Category

Shall We Sequence Genomes At Homes? – The Future of Genomics

As a geneticist, talking with George Church or the President of the Personalized Medicine Coalition was a fascinating experience while writing my recently published book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine. This is still one of the most promising fields of medicine but without getting it closer to the general public, genomics will never play a pivotal role in practicing medicine.

Let’s start from the beginning. From the years of 2005, 2006 and 2007, patients have been able to order genetic tests online with 23andme, Navigenics or Pathway Genomics. In 2013, 23andme received a letter from FDA about ceasing marketing of the screening service. Since then, the market has been transforming into something new that could also meet the regulations of the FDA. At least, hopefully.

My Gentle Labs package.

My Gentle Labs package.

I’ve had 3 genomic tests with Navigenics, Pathway Genomics and My Gentle Labs with 3 different results and experience. I thought the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market is just not ready for prime time. I also analyzed my own raw data with Promethease and got to very interesting conclusions about the future of my life. I loved the possibility to get insights about my genome as well, not just measuring my vital signs. Here is my overall experience with genetic testing:

Similarly to how the wearable revolution is transforming into a world of smart clothes, disease prevention and insideables (swallowed sensors), the field of DTC genomics has been changing too. Here are some reasons why.

  • While the cost of sequencing one person’s genome was about $3 billion in 2003, now it’s possible for under $1-3000 (see figure below). The $1000 genome is still not here, but the trends are clear and soon the shipping cost of the sample will be higher than actually sequencing that genome.
  • The number of sequenced genomes is skyrocketing. Illumina said that 228,000 Human Genomes would be sequenced only in 2014 and the predictions for this year are even bigger. Soon we will all have access to our own genomes.
  • It is known that fetal DNA is circulating in the mother’s blood,and it can be separated from her blood to allow analysis of the fetus’s genetic makeup. Imagine the possibilities.
  • Large US hospitals are about to begin sequencing the genomes of healthy newborn babies as part of a government-funded research program called BabySeq. Major diseases could be pointed out and precautions could be made about others far in time.
  • Oxford Nanopore developed the MinION™ portable device for molecular analyses of DNA, RNA and proteins that is driven by nanopore technology. It might be the first step towards sequencing genes at home, despite early criticisms.
  • There are more and more targeted cancer therapies available. As certain tumors have specific genetic mutations such as BRCA in breast cancer or EGFR in lung cancer, among others, they might be sensitive to targeted drugs. Sequencing a tumor’s own genome is becoming a routine step in designing the therapy for cancer patients, although the costs are exceptionally high.
Cost of genome sequencing.

Cost of genome sequencing.

As you can see, examples underscore the notion that genomics could play a very important role in everyday medicine, but numerous steps and elements are needed for that.

  1. Comprehensive and thorough regulation from organizations such as the FDA or EMA about what DTC companies can offer and actually do. Can patients order tests online or only their caregivers?
  2. Innovative companies connecting patients to medical professionals through the genomic knowledge behind cancer and other diseases.
  3. Reliable algorithms that could help use the huge amount of data genome sequencing leads to in analyzing health outcomes. A great example is how Joel Dudley at Mount Sinai Medical Center is working on implementing big data in medical decision making. IBM Watson is also analyzing genomic data to find treatments in brain cancer.
  4. With the widespread of genetic testing and the decline in the cost, it should be a common thing to analyze my genome or get a detailed analysis. Moreover, caregivers should be trained to be able to use that data in patients’ health or disease management.
  5. A better understanding of what genomics can and cannot offer by the general public. Professor Church pointed out to me that without educating people about the pros and cons of the genomic revolution, we cannot make the right steps forward.

It has become clear, seeing the trends, that the technology letting us sequence genomes at home is coming. Although it’s still hard to make good, evidence-based decisions purely based on genetic background; to get reimbursed if genetics-based personalized treatments are cost-effective on the long term (but expensive on the short term); and to interpret the huge amount of data. Cognitive computers are meant to help us with that, but I’m sure ever-improving technologies will provide all of us with our own genomes far before we could do anything with that information.

Read more about the future of genomics in my book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine.

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Channelling the future in medical education: Infographic!

I launched two courses at Semmelweis Medical School in order to prepare students for the digital world. One is focusing on the medical use of social media, and the other is dedicated to disruptive technologies and how to find the human touch in the digital jungle. Therefore I was very excited when Ashfield, an international healthcare services organization, asked me to be the moderator of a global discussion on the future of education.

I had a chance to work with key opinion leaders of medical education and to engage in amazing discussions about the future needs of medical professionals.

Medical education must ­finally step up to meet the expectations of empowered patients, the needs of busy physicians, and the use of disruptive technologies. This forum was designed to facilitate this process.

See the detailed article about the results on Pharmaphorum, the announcement by Ashfield and the whole infographic. Here is my favorite part and an excerpt from the article of Ruth Herman:

The digital revolution has already led to major changes in channel preferences as mobile technologies, online networks and other innovations provide better ways for healthcare professionals to learn and obtain new information. These changes are likely to continue as the digital skills and sophistication of both patient and physician populations continue to grow. So how can the providers of this information stay ahead?


Iodine: Better information about medications

I met Thomas Goetz at Google years ago and he provided me with excellent advice about my future. Then I read his book, followed his path and was glad to see him as entrepreneur-in-residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Now he came up with Iodine, a site with huge potentials. A few things they offer:

  • Drug reviews
  • Side effect database
  • What to expect from a specific drug
  • Compare drugs to each other
  • Popular medications
  • Medical Translator extension for Chrome
  • How people feel about certain medications

Check it out!


Social Media in Clinical Practice: The Handbook

Since Springer published my book, Social Media in Clinical Practice, I have received amazing feedback from e-patients and medical professionals worldwide who found my handbook to be very helpful in their professional and personal lives. Here are a few lines about the book:

The number of patients using social media and the number of applications and solutions used by medical professionals online have been sky-rocketing in the past few years, therefore the rational behind creating a well-designed, clear and tight handbook of practical examples and case studies with simple pieces of suggestions about different social media platforms is evident.

While the number of e-patients is rising, the number of web-savvy doctors who can meet the expectations of these new generations of patients is not, this huge gap can only be closed by providing medical professionals with easily implementable, useful and primarily practical pieces of advice and suggestions about how they should use these tools or at least what they should know about these, so then when an e-patient has an internet-related question, they will know how to respond properly.

As all medical professionals regardless of their medical specialties will meet e-patients, this issue with growing importance will affect every medical professionals which means there is a huge need for such a easily understandable handbook.​

Here you can check out the detailed descriptions of each chapter.

Dr Mesko_Social Media in Clinical Practice Cover

Top Trends And Technologies Shaping Medicine in 2015!

It was an extraordinary year for technological improvements in medicine & healthcare. Wearable devices measuring our vital signs at home; the 3D printing revolution producing prosthetics and biomaterials; exoskeletons getting FDA approval; brain-to-brain interfaces; artificial intelligence becoming widely available and many more as described in my book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine.

There are a lot of reasons to look forward to the year 2015, therefore let’s see the top trends and technologies that will shape the year 2015 in medicine and healthcare!

Organ-on-a-chip technique that can mimic the physiology of human organs might be available in the year 2015 which mean that we might soon be able to create the first virtual model of the human body making it possible to run drug tests on billions of patient models in seconds with supercomputers. Keep an eye on: Wyss Institute of Harvard


In the coming year, digital tattoos as thin as two micrometers might become available making it the ultimate sensor. So I don’t have to use all these gadgets around myself to measure my health data but with one very thin digital tattoo I could measure whatever I would like to measure. Keep an eye on: Takao Someya


Well, while the year of 2014 was the year of the wearable health trackers, 2015 will be the year of smart clothes. T-shirts and trousers which will be able to measure our health parameters in the most convenient way. Keep an eye on: Hexoskin.

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The first medical tricorders will come to the market due to the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize and Nokia Sensing XChallenges. These will produce little devices that by scanning the body would come up with a few simple diagnostic options or measure any kind of vital signs at once. Keep an eye on: DMI.


IBM supercomputer named Watson as a cognitive computer will be used in more and more medical practices worldwide and more and more hospitals will buy that as an actual asset to the medical decision making process. Keep an eye on: IBM Watson.

Blood tests will be revolutionized by making them available with just one droplet of blood at first Walmarts around the US. Keep an eye on: Theranos.

Food scanning is coming at home and we will be able to finally know what ingredients our food contains by using spectroscopy. Keep an eye on: Tellspec.

Augmented reality will move away from Google Glass more towards the first digital contact lenses that can measure blood glucose levels from tears as an added benefit. Keep an eye on: bionic contact lenses.

The first 3D printed biomaterials will become mainstream as this year, the first liver tissues printed out in 3D will be used by pharmaceutical companies maybe making animal testing unnecessary. Keep an eye on: Organovo.

Empowered patients will attend more and more conferences, they will speak at these conferences and more and more e-patients will be included in editorial boards of peer reviewed journals.

Direct-to-consumer companies in genomics will deal with the challenges FDA will come up with and we will move towards very cheap whole genome sequencing. Although the cost will not be zero next year, but we will get closer to my prediction that the shipping cost of the sample will be higher than actually sequencing the genome. Keep an eye on: Gentle.

In areas with doctor shortages, telemedicine will be used at its best. Moreover, the first force-feedback gloves will come to the market making it possible to even feel the handshake form a distance, even from continents away while discussing medical issues through telemedical applications. Keep an eye on: InTouch Health.

Telemedicine Robots
Prosthetics will become more sophisticated and much much cheaper due to the 3D printing revolution. There will be people who will want to replace their healthy limbs for state-of-the-art prosthetic ones. Keep an eye on: Touch Bionics.


And I think that the first brain-computer interfaces will be used in practice, plus we will more and more be able to measure our brain activities; and to learn how to be relaxed or how to be focused at home. Keep an eye on: Muse and PIP.


Besides these, privacy and security issues will rule the year as well as an effort to get good mobile health applications and digital services reimbursed by insurers. We will see.

Here are some more lists.


2014’s Most Popular Medical Stories About The Future of Medicine

Here are the most important and interesting news and announcements about the future of healthcare & medicine in 2014 month by month. I hope you will enjoy looking back in time.
















Medical Doctor holding a world globe in her hands as medical network concept


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Cognitive Computers Making Physicians Better

A few days ago, I wrote an article about why artificial intelligence is the stethoscope of the 21st century. Now by including some more stories, I covered this important topic in my newest video. Check it out!

“If artificial intelligence can improve a chess player, it can also improve a physician.”


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