Andrew Lockley – Exponential Investor (United Kingdom) –
There are more to your eyes, it turns out, than meets the… eye?
This week Google revealed its artificial intelligence (AI) can predict your age, gender, blood pressure and risk of heart disease from a photo of the back of your eye.
Current tests for heart disease rely on drawing blood to measure your cholesterol. They are around 72% accurate.
Google’s AI can analyse a photo of your retina and predict heart disease with 70% accuracy. And Google believes the accuracy of its AI will go up as it feeds it more data.
This is a massive achievement and will have far-reaching effects on diagnosis procedures.
Imagine being able to take a photo of your eye on your phone and email it to your doctor to get a heart disease test, or blood pressure reading.
The researchers involved in this study stress we’re some way off that scenario yet. But it does seem likely that’s where we’re ing in the near future.
Here’s what USA Today had to say:
Google’s technique generated a “heatmap,” or graphical representation of data that revealed which pixels in an image were the most important for predicting a specific risk factor. For example, Google’s algorithm paid more attention to blood vessels for making predictions about blood pressure.
“Pattern recognition and making use of images is one of the best areas for AI right now, says Harlan M. Krumholz, a professor of medicine (cardiology) and director of Yale’s Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, who considers the research a proof of concept.
It will “help us understand these processes and diagnoses in ways that we haven’t been able to do before,” he says. “And this is going to come from photographs and sensors and a whole range of devices that will help us essentially improve the physical examination and I think more precisely hone our understanding of disease and individuals and pair it with treatments.”
The scientists also said they were optimistic they could apply this AI method to other areas of scientific discovery, such as cancer research.
If you want to know more about this development, you can read the full published study in the Nature Biomedical Engineering journal here.
Hopefully this technology will reach the point where you can get an accurate cancer test in minutes by just sending in a photo of your eye to an online, automated service. Imagine the time and anguish that would save.
Could scars reveal the secret to eternal youth?
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania managed to make wounds heal without scaring.
Although that might not sound very impressive, it could actually be a massive breakthrough.
The ability to make skin regenerate, rather than scar will open up a whole world of medical treatments for accident and attack victims.
Even more than that, this research may even reveal how to stop our skin from ageing.
As Science Alert reports:
If you’ve ever wondered why scar tissue looks so different from regular skin, it’s because scar tissue doesn’t contain any fat cells or hair follicles.
The type of skin that regenerates over a small, superficial cut is filled with fat cells called adipocytes, just like the skin you were born with, which means the two will eventually blend into each other once the wound has healed.
But scar tissue is made up almost entirely of cells called myofibroblasts, and doesn’t contain any fat cells at all. So instead of blending into the surrounding skin once the wound has fully healed, it looks completely different – permanently.
The same goes for ageing skin – as we age, we lose our adipocytes, which leads to discolouration and deep, irreversible wrinkles.
But scientists have discovered that existing myofibroblasts can actually be converted into adipocytes, which suggests that as a wound is healing, scar tissue could be converted to regenerated skin instead – something that scientists thought could only be possible in fish and amphibians.
The secret, they say, lies in hair follicles.
Suspecting that the growth of hair follicles actually assists the growth of fat cells in regenerating skin, the researchers wanted to see what would happen if they induced hair follicles to grow in newly forming scar tissue in mice and lab-grown human skin samples.
This is something that would never occur in nature, seeing as scar tissue has no hair follicles in it.
They found that the hair follicles released a signalling protein called Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) as soon as they started forming, and this actually converted the scar’s myofibroblasts into adipocytes.
If hair follicles were induced to grow where a wound was healing, the resulting skin was found to be indistinguishable from pre-existing skin.
The article only really touches on the fact that the loss of our “adipocytes” is what leads our skin to age. But if they now have a path to regenerating these adipocytes in wounds, surely the next step is adapting the technique to work on healthy, but ageing skin.
UK leads the world in offshore wind production
When you think of great energy-producing nations, the UK doesn’t easily spring to mind. But, as it turns out, we are the undisputed leader in offshore wind.
The world’s biggest wind farm is currently being built off the coast of Yorkshire. It’s called Hornsea Project One. It will supply enough electricity for 1 million UK homes and it’s scheduled to be completed in two years.
However, that one has recently been surpassed by Hornsea Project Two. This second installation is even bigger. It will supply enough electricity for 1.3 million UK homes, and it just announced who will be building its turbines.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there are currently around 27.2 million households in the UK. So between them, these projects will supply around 8.45% of their electricity.
And Orsted, who is in charge of these projects has already started work on another one. The Hornsea Project Three will supply enough electricity for 2 million UK homes.
So that will mean that between them, the Hornsea projects will supply around 15.8% of our household electricity.
It’s fair to say the UK is doing very well in the renewable energy game.
Long-dead NASA satellite comes back to life, probably not possessed by demons
We finish off today’s issue with a rather strange story.
In 2005, NASA’s IMAGE satellite unexpectedly dropped out of communication. NASA attempted a reboot of the satellite in 2007 during an eclipse, but when that didn’t work it gave up on it.
Then this January, an amateur astronomer started picking up signals from it.
NASA has since confirmed it has “been able to read some basic housekeeping data from the spacecraft, suggesting that at least the main control system is operational.”
Imagine if your old computer suddenly started up again and logged on to the internet after being broken for 13 years.
As phys.org reported:
After successfully completing and extending its initial two-year mission in 2002, the satellite unexpectedly failed to make contact on a routine pass on Dec. 18, 2005. After a 2007 eclipse failed to induce a reboot, the mission was declared over.
I’m sure it’s all routine. But it really does read like the opening scene of 90s sci-fi horror film, Event Horizon.
In that film, scientists created a spaceship – the Event Horizon – that could bend space to go faster than light.
It disappears on its maiden voyage and suddenly reappears many years later. A rescue ship is sent to investigate and it turns out the Event Horizon has bent space time and travelled directly to hell.
The rescue crew become possessed by demons and, well, all hell breaks loose.
If you like sci-fi and horror films, it’s well worth a watch. Aside from the horror (it really is quite a terrifying film) there are some interesting theories about faster-than-light travel discussed by the crew.
Now, as I say, I’m sure NASA’s IMAGE satellite hasn’t been to hell and isn’t possessed by demons. But it is quite an intriguing story.
If you’re interested, you can follow updates on NASA’s recovery attempts of the IMAGE here.
Until next time,
Editor, Exponential Investor