Here’s our weekly summary of tweets from @hfdigest, and their significance.


We have known for some time that adult stem cells age, as do all our cells. But until recently we did not know we can rejuvenate them—in the petri dish, anyway. This extraordinary breakthrough could make us younger, and not merely stop growing old. It is another harbinger of human immortality. It might not happen in time for some of us, but there might at least be reason to hope that a class of gene-altering compounds called sirtuins—which themselves may or may not prolong life (the jury is out)—can improve the quality of the years left to us.

Diagnostics/Digital Medicine

Underpants that text you, or maybe a nurse, when you wet yourself, “smart shirt” wearable monitors, and a torrent of health apps (here are six of the best, and here’s another that monitors your heart pressure) are available today. Where do the data from these monitors go? Increasingly, the data will go wirelessly into your EMR where it will be invaluable to doctors, human or machine, in diagnosing disease and assessing health status, both personal and public. Companies are already starting to tap in to that extremely valuable data.

The sad thing is that some doctors, who still argue against the EMR, don’t get it. It seems to us they have their heads stuck firmly in the sand, with no idea where medicine is going. Eventually, postmodern medicine will simply pass them by, but left unchallenged, their views could retard the practice of postmodern medicine. And that would not be in the best interests of patients.

True, postmodern medicine, or at least some aspects of it, might not be in the best interests of doctors. While Nuance (the maker of Dragon voice recognition software) has teamed with IBM to make “Dr.” Watson—the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer—understand doctors’ spoken notes enough to autofill EMR forms without the need to go through the intermediate stage of a transcription, any satisfaction doctors may derive from this advance may be short-lived, since within 2 years Watson will be diagnosing patients and recommending treatment.

Watson is an instantiation of “e-medicine,” whose arrival is obvious from MIT Technology Review’s listing of nine such stocks to watch. Watson is also the state of the art in artificial intelligence (AI), whose arrival is also obvious, after many false starts over the past 50 years. In fact, Watson, Google’s work in AI, and the overall trend to autonomous, intelligent machines everywhere are reasons I can say without blushing that you should read my book Deus ex Machina sapiens: The Emergence of Machine Intelligence, and soon. And if the robots get smarter than us, why, we’ll just have to work with them, perhaps through proton-based transistors, or perhaps by turning our own brains into machines, as we have done with an artificial cerebellum on a chip that works in a real rat.

Genomic and Regenerative Medicine

Doctors are under less threat from two other, interrelated, branches of postmodern medicine: genomic and regenerative. These have also has arrived, with plenty of evidence of their adoption. In just the past week or two, there have been announcements about…

As we have long predicted, commercial interests are getting ahead of research in postmodern medicines. You might expect it in Russia and the third world, but now you can find it even in the UK, where fat harvested from the patient’s stomach or thighs via liposuction is being used to make implants for the young and the breastless—without definitive evidence that the technique works safely and effectively over the long-term. (Our November column in the American Hospital Association’s Hospitals & Health Networks Weekly will comment on the ethics of such practice. We’ll tweet you when it’s published.)



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