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Posts from the ‘science’ Category

PhD defense on Monday!

Next Monday (19, November) is going to be a very important day in my life as my PhD defense will take place that day at the University of Debrecen. Of course, I’m going to make the thesis public soon.

The title of the thesis:

Peripheral Blood Gene Expression Profiling as a Tool in Exploring the Pharmacogenomics of Autoimmune Diseases

The opponents:

  • Prof. Margit Zeher (head of the Department of Rheumatology at the University of Debrecen)
  • Dr. Joel Dudley (Director of Biomedical Informatics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine)

Wish me luck!

What is open access about?

Fellow genomic blogger, Jonathan Eisen, created a great video that describes what open access publishing is about. I’ve always tried to publish in open access journals.

Key Trends in the Future of Medicine: E-Patients, Communication and Technology

At the end of the 19th century, French artists were hired by a toy or cigarette manufacturer to create a series of postcards which would feature the future. Most of the postcards described ordinary processes and activities, but not medicine or healthcare. There might be only one example when they tried to predict the use of a microscope and the work of microbiologists:

This series of interesting postcards show how hard predicting the future of medicine is. As we must walk on the path of evidence based medicine, it’s a real challenge to predict the next technologies and solutions in healthcare. One thing is clear though: the real medical instrument will be the same, proper communication.

Robots replacing doctors?

I’ve given hundreds of presentations and I teach at several universities about the use of social media in everyday medicine and I always highlight the importance of 1) doctor-patient relationship in person, and 2) good communication skills for doctors, but if I try to think ahead, I have to agree with Vinod Khosla that technology can replace 80% percent of the work of doctors.

Khosla believed that patients would be better off getting diagnosed by a machine than by doctors. Creating such a system was a simple problem to solve. Google’s development of a driverless smart car was “two orders of magnitude more complex” than providing the right diagnosis.

IBM’s Watson is just the perfect example here. They have been working closely with oncologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York in order to see whether Watson could be used in the decision making processes of doctors regarding cancer treatments. Watson doesn’t answer medical questions, but based on the input data, it comes up with the most relevant and potential answers and the doctor has the final call. This is an important point as it can only facilitate the work of doctors, not replacing them.

The society of doctors is quite a closed one from many perspectives. Introducing new concepts is always tricky. Just think of how much they tried to avoid the expansion of the online world and then the denial that e-patients could be equal partners in the treatment. Medical professionals slowly accepted the advantages these concepts can bring into healthcare, therefore there is a reason to believe that the same will happen to automatic decision support systems as well.

Who will initiate the change?

Obviously, doctors can never be replaced totally by robots and the future of the patient-physician relationship is coded in the way healthy consumers take matters into their hands and lead the movement that transforms healthcare. We must not entirely rely on the society of medical professionals when it comes to changing healthcare any more, but e-patients initiate this process which is certainly going to be a strange new landscape for doctors who were trained for a paternalistic medical world.

So what should we expect to see in the next decades? I think we will see amazing developments in many areas, except medicine in which small and slow steps will mark the way towards a more transparent healthcare system in which decision trees are available for everyone, online content and social media are both curated, patients are empowered, doctors are web-savvy, and collaborative barriers are gone forever. A new world in which medical students are trained to be able to deal with the rapidly evolving technologies and e-patients.

Should we worry about it?

Envisioning Technology summarized the future of health technologies in 6 large groups such as regeneration, augmentation, treatments, diagnostics, telemedicine and biogerontology. See the full image here. Plenty of start-ups have already been walking on the paths of these areas and sooner or later patients will have access to artificial organ waiting lists.

As you can see, the aging society plays an important role in the future developments, but I would have loved to see prevention in this list. We should expect to see robotic and data-driven systems focusing on preventing diseases instead of treating them.

The next steps:

If technologically and medically well-trained doctors and empowered patients together with innovative technologies and evidence based big data systems league against diseases, we have a very good chance for winning this battle that has been going on for thousands of years.

Even if in this new world and especially in the near future, we will have new things to worry about such as medical terrorism, hacking medical devices or stealing patient data.

In a nutshell, there is a momentum in the history of medicine and we are living in the best era when we still have the opportunity to choose the path we will walk on. In case the path is marked by open minded people collaborating and crowdsourcing online in order to find solutions for medical problems, this path will lead us to a great new world.

The life of a Nature paper: Video

Nature published a very interesting and well-designed video about the life of a research paper from lab sketches to publication.

Crowdsourcing to structure biological knowledge: Slideshow

I met Andrew Su at SciFoo Camp, Googlepley in 2009 and we had great discussions about how social media could be used by science and research. Now here is an amazing slideshow from him focusing on crowdsourcing.

Funny and Useful Videos about Science

I just came across the AsapSCIENCE Youtube channel that provides funny and useful videos about everyday health and scientific problems, questions and challenges.

One example, the science of appetite:

Social Media Scientific Session of Mayo Clinic

As a member of the External Advisory Board of Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, I’m gadly sharing their recent announcement:

The Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is convening our first Social Media Scientific Session on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 as part of our social media week at Mayo Clinic, and we’re inviting abstract submissions demonstrating the value of social media in health care.

We’re looking for case studies documenting the impact of social media, as well as results from quality improvement projects and IRB-approved research protocols studying the use of social media in health care. Abstracts may relate to data gathered through social media or to the effectiveness of social media interventions.

Revolution of the Dissemination of Medical Research?

Steven Palter, MD send me an e-mail a few days ago letting me know about a huge project he had been working on for some time. It is truly an amazing project and hopefully it will help us disseminate medical research more easily.

“For the last 200 years, medical publishing remained unchanged. Our solution accommodates non-print work through fully integrated multimedia, opens up a whole new form of learning, and allows readers to become part of an ongoing interactive discussion,” says Dr. Steven Palter, the Video and New Media Editor of Fertility and Sterility. Dr. Palter, who developed the concept and spearheaded the project, says, “With this effort, we have bridged the gap separating the digital and traditional medical literature. This integration will lead to exciting new directions in research.”

And here are the details:

Online video and traditional print were previously two separate and unrelated worlds in scientific research.  The new mechanism allows videos to be cited the same way as a written article in a traditional print medical journal and seamlessly unifies online multimedia content and print journals.  Researchers can watch footage of innovations and techniques and learn previously inaccessible information in new non-written formats while still being able to find this information through traditional medical print sources.

New Sci-Fi novel Skewers the Singularity: Give-Away Contest

Joe Tripician, an Emmy Award winner producer/writer/director has recently contacted me about his new book, Immortality Wars which focuses on the hypothetical future where artificial intelligence meets human immortality. I love such thoughtful sci-fis and I’m happy to announce a give-away contest of his e-book for the first 5 people leaving a comment on this post.

“Immortality Wars” paints a wicked portrait of the near-future, one where technology’s goals require wars to bring them to creation. In this world human ingenuity is a saving grace, and immortality is not necessarily forever.

Access2Research: Global Petition!

I’ve been a supporter of open access research for a long time (Just 2 examples why: My Open Access Success Story and Open access social media guide for pharma) and it was a pleasure to see the announcement coming from the OA community about signing a global petition today.

Sign the petition to require free access over the Internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research. This will require you to create an account at the White House petition website, confirm the account by clicking on a link in your email, and then sign the petition itself.

Please sign the petition and follow the movement on Facebook.


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