No Doctor Needed: US Health Regulators Approve AI Device To Detect Eye Diseases

For the first time, US health regulators have given the green light to sell a medical device that bypasses doctors and uses artificial intelligence (AI) software to detect an eye disease affecting more than 30 million Americans living with diabetes.

Dubbed the IDx-DR, the device (no doubt named after its parent company IDx LLC in Iowa) comes in the form of a software program. Any doctor, not just an eye specialist, takes images of a person’s eye with a special retinal camera and then uploads digital photos to a cloud server where the software is installed. IDx-DR indicates whether or not the image is of high enough quality to get a result and, if it is, the program then uses an AI algorithm to analyze the images.

It produces two results. The first will refer a patient to an eye care professional if a “more than mild diabetic retinopathy” is detected. If the results come back negative, IDx-DR refers the patient to get another screening in 12 months.

The FDA evaluated data from a clinical study of retinal images from 900 patients with diabetes at 10 facilities in order to test IDx-DR’s accuracy. They found in mild cases it was correct 87.4 percent of the time, and 89.5 percent in “more than mild” cases.

A doctor isn’t needed to interpret the results, which means any health care provider can recommend next steps for the patient. 

IDx-DR only detects diabetic retinopathy, which affects the eye when too much blood sugar damages blood vessels in the back of it. It’s the most common vision complication for people with diabetes, with around 200,000 cases in the US each year. But it doesn’t work for everyone: People with a history of laser treatment, surgery or injections in the eye, or a list of other conditions (persistent vision loss, blurred vision, floaters, to name a few) should not be screened using IDx-DR. 

Eduards Normaals/Shutterstock

The new device joins the ranks of other AI technology moving into the medical field, like this smart software that can diagnose prostate cancer or this other algorithm trained to recognize conditions like age-related vision loss as well as diabetic retinopathy. 

While a recent study suggests consumers are more comfortable using AI in their healthcare than in retail or with their financial institutions, the use of AI raises a few ethical questions, such as who becomes responsible for an improper diagnosis, how to protect privacy or prevent hacking, and even the threat of bioterrorism through nanotechnology

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12 Sex Toys That Sex Therapists Say Will Change Your Life

Let’s talk about sex (toys): Whether you’re single and doin’ it yourself or in a relationship, chances are your sex life could benefit from a little product play. 

With that in mind, we asked sex therapists to share the sex toys and products they think every grown-up should have in their bedroom. Below are their top 12 picks.

  • 1 Minna Life Limon
    “The Minna Life Limon is hands-down my favorite vibrator ever. It has a unique squeezable technology, which means that the harder you squeeze, the more intense the vibrations get. It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use.” — Vanessa Marin, sex therapist and online sex therapy course creator

  • 2 Nova By We-Vibe
    Nova by We-Vibe is a vibrator contoured to provide clitoral and G-spot stimulation. It is a modern version of The Rabbit with a clitoral stimulator that flexes and moves with your body. I recommended this device if you’re looking for multisensory orgasms.” — Shannon Chavez, a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles

  • 3 LELO Hugo Remote Controlled Vibrating Prostate Massager
    “More and more men are opening up (literally!) to the joys of anal and prostate play, and I think the LELO toys are a fantastic way to take it to the next level, especially the Hugo prostate massager. This toy comes with two powerful motors, one for the prostate, another in the base for the perineum.” — Marin

  • 4 Fleshlight Turbo
    “Sure, the Fleshlight is a way for guys to get off. But it can also be a great way for guys who have trouble ejaculating during intercourse to figure out how to reach orgasms without their own hand touching their penis. (Many men have never had that experience).” — Stephen Snyder, a sex therapist in New York City and the author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Term Relationship

  • 5 Barbell by Betty Dodson
    “The Barbell by Betty Dodson is a pelvic floor exerciser, dildo, and pleasure joystick all in one. The barbell is a stainless-steel weighted device that can be placed in vaginally during self-stimulation. The weight of the barbell exercises pelvic floor muscles to improve arousal and orgasm strength. A genital workout with a happy ending!” — Chavez

  • 6 Jimmyjane Afterglow Natural Massage Oil Candle
    “The Afterglow is a solid candle made from natural, good-for-the-skin ingredients (including jojoba, shea butter, vitamin E and aloe) that melt into a luxurious, smoky, sweet-smelling massage oil for partners to use while indulging in major manual fun. Housed in an elegant ceramic container, with a pinched corner to facilitate pouring, this massage oil is the perfect complement to massage, sensual or not.” — Laurel Steinberg, psychotherapist and assistant professor of sexology at the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists

  • 7 LELO Smart Wand
    “The large Smart Wand by LELO has a powerful vibration intensity and a curved handle so it is easier to hold during self-stimulation. The SenseTouch technology gradually increases the intensity and speed with increased pressure. This is a whole body massager that is very effective in helping women orgasm.” — Chavez

  • 8 Bumper Thrust Buffer
    “The Bumper is made by a company called Perfect Fit. This very soft silicone device fits over the base of a man’s penis, reducing penetration depth. Ideal for men with very long penises who can’t thrust freely for fear of hurting their partners — or for couples craving a different kind of thrusting sensation. This video shows how it works.” — Snyder

  • 9 Play Zone Kit
    “Again from Perfect Fit, this Play Zone Kit takes the guesswork out of selecting a cock ring. You get a full set of silicone cock rings of various sizes stacked on a conical tower, so you can experiment with which ones work best for you.” — Snyder 

  • 10 LELO Ina Wave
    “Rabbit-style vibrators like the LELO Ina Wave stimulate both the ‘outer clitoris’ (the part that’s visible under the clitoral hood) and the ‘inner clitoris’ (the unseen part that wraps around the vagina). Of all the rabbit-style vibrators out there, this is the one that gets raves from my patients.” — Snyder

  • 11 Magic Wand Massager
    “The Magic Wand is perfect for women whose orgasmic threshold is set high — in other words, those who have trouble climaxing or for those who may have never been able to yet. Its intense, variable speeds are powered by a plug-in cord which means there will be no dying batteries. It really gets the job done.” — Steinberg

  • 12 Wicked Aqua Lube
    “Yes, lube! Most people don’t think of lube as a sex toy, but it is one of the best things you can introduce into your sex life. Lube decreases pain and discomfort, amplifies sensation, and is just plain fun to play with! My favorites are Pjur Original and Wicked Aqua.” — Marin 

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28 Of The Most Dangerous Things Science Has Strongly Linked To Cancer

Cancer is the No. 2 cause of death in the US, second only to heart disease.

It fundamentally affects the way our cells grow and divide, changing them in perverse ways. All cancer is a result of damage or genetic mutations in our DNA. The nasty, debilitating class of diseases spreads through a body like an invading army, as toxic cells grow relentlessly into unruly tumors.

Some cases of cancer are out of our control, determined by genetic defects and predispositions passed down from one generation to the next, or spurred by genetic changes we undergo through our lifetime.

But we also know that breathing in certain substances, eating specific things, and even using some kinds of plastics ups the risk of developing some deadly cancers.

Here are some known carcinogens (cancer-causers), as well as a few more things scientists are zeroing in on as prime suspects.


Scientists now know that eating too much sweet stuff can not only lead to diabetes, but actively damage your cells and increase your risk of developing cancer.

But that’s not all.

New research suggests that sugar may fuel tumor growth in the body — because cancer loves to use sugar as fuel.

“The hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth” Johan Thevelein, a Belgian molecular biologist, said in October after the release of his study.

Scientists say that the groundbreaking research gives us a better understanding of how sugar and cancer interact and that it could one day help create targeted diet strategies for patients.

Processed foods

Any food that comes in a crinkly plastic wrapper, is industrially sealed, and is designed to last for months without spoiling may be a quick on-the-go fix for a hunger pang, but it’s also most likely increasing your risk of cancer.

Scientists in France recently zeroed in on a link between people who eat more processed foods and those who develop cancer.

They’re not sure yet whether the problem is the shelf-stabilizing ingredients, the plastic packaging, or some combination of the two. And because their study was correlative, it’s possible there’s some other hidden factor at work.


Though the tobacco industry tried to cover this one up, we’ve known for years that tobacco smoke has at least 70 cancer-causing chemicals inside.

And it’s not just smokers who are affected — people who inhale secondhand smoke can develop deadly forms of cancer too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30%.”

People who chew their tobacco are at increased risk too.

Tanning and unprotected sun exposure


According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, people who use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75%.

Regular sun can hurt you too, so wearing protective clothing and sunscreen and finding shade are good ideas if you’re going to be out in the sunshine for more than 15 minutes.

Toxic chemicals at work

Some people work with cancer-causing substances daily.

Those at risk of coming in contact with cancer-causing substances on the job include:

• Aluminum workers.

• Painters.

• Tar pavers, who come in contact with the carcinogen benzene.

• Rubber manufacturers.

• Hairdressers who deal with dyes every day.

• Nail-salon workers breathing in dangerous fumes.

• And everyone who works the night shift (the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified nighttime work as a probable carcinogen in 2007).

The CDC has a full list of occupational cancer hazards.


Arsenic, a natural part of the Earth’s crust, is toxic in its inorganic form. It’s often found in contaminated drinking water in places like Bangladesh, or in spots where irrigation systems for crops use arsenic water.

The World Health Organization says at least 140 million people in 50 countries drink water containing high levels of arsenic.

It’s also one of the cancer-causing agents in tobacco.

Charred meat, and grilling over an open flame

Smoky meats from the grill may be tender and tasty, but they probably also increase your risk of cancer. That’s because the muscle meats contain compounds called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.

According to the National Cancer Institute, when meats like beef, poultry, or fish are cooked over a hot open flame or pan-fried at high temperatures, the fat and juices they release into the fire spark flames with the dangerous chemicals inside that then cook into the meat we eat.

They’re not positive that these chemicals cause cancer, but in lab tests they have been found to change DNA in ways that might increase the risk of cancer.


Coal miners have for years had higher rates of cancer in their lungs, bladder, and stomach. There’s sufficient data to suggest miners who deal with coal gasification or who inhale coal dust can get cancer.


Regular heavy alcohol consumption can up your risk of developing several different kinds of cancer, including throat, liver, breast and colon cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “the risk of developing cancer increases with the amount of alcohol a person drinks.”

Diesel exhaust

Diesel oil has more than 30 components that can cause cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Salt-cured meat or fish and pickled foods

Twitter/Cavistons Food Emporium

Salt-cured fish, which is popular in China, is high in nitrates and nitrites — known carcinogens in animals that may also cause cancer in humans. The chemical compounds can damage DNA, leading to head and neck cancer.

According to Cancer Research UK, “people from China, or with Chinese ancestry living in the UK, have higher rates of nasopharyngeal cancer than other ethnic groups,” something that might be because of their diet.

Eating lots of pickled foods can also increase your risk of stomach cancer.


Chemicals used in oil fracking that may be released into air and water include the cancer-causers benzene and formaldehyde.

Processed meats like ham, bacon, and sausage


The World Health Organization says processed meats like hot dogs, ham, bacon, and sausage can cause cancer. That’s because the meat has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it, such as by salting, curing, fermenting, or smoking.

The WHO also says it’s possible that any kind of red meat could be linked to an increased risk of cancers like colorectal cancer.


Asbestos was used as an insulation material for years before the dust was linked to lung cancer.

Products that contain asbestos are not completely banned in the US, though the Environmental Protection Agency regulates their use.

Birth control and estrogens

Hormones can cause cancer too.

Women who start menstruation early or go into menopause later can increase their risk of breast cancer because they’re exposed to more estrogen and progesterone made by the ovaries.

Using birth control pills can also increase a woman’s risk of developing breast and cervical cancers.


Catching certain kinds of viruses can indirectly increase your risk of cancer. That’s because in some situations, viruses trigger genetic changes in cells that can contribute to cancer.

The CDC says: “Some viruses linked to cancer are the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer; hepatitis B and C viruses, which can cause liver cancer; and the Epstein-Barr virus, which may cause a type of lymphoma. Also, the H. pylori bacterium can cause gastric cancer.”

Your family

Some cancer risk is passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic mutations play a key role in about 5-10% of all cancers.

“Genetic changes that promote cancer can be inherited from our parents if the changes are present in germ cells, which are the reproductive cells of the body (eggs and sperm),” the National Cancer Institute says.

For example, certain kinds of breast cancer are a result of mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.


Obesity can put you at increased risk of developing types of cancers including breast, colon, rectum, esophagus, kidney, and pancreas.

Prevention includes eating healthy foods and getting enough physical activity, both of which not only help people maintain a healthy weight, but also reduce the risk of some of those cancers.



Scientists have known for years that formaldehyde can cause nasal cancer in rats.

The preserving agent and disinfectant is used in some glues and building products, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer says it can cause cancer in humans too.

Air pollution

Smoggy air — and the particulates in it — can also lead to cancer.

Soot in general isn’t great. In London, people started noticing lots of chimney sweeps developing scrotal cancer in the 1770s, and further studies found a link between the backbreaking chimney work and higher cancer rates.

Soot inhalation has also been linked to lung, esophageal, and bladder cancers.


Silica is a natural mineral found in sand, stone, and concrete. But when construction workers and miners inhale silica particles by cutting, sawing or drilling into rock, it can increase their risk of developing lung cancer.


We know that X-rays and gamma rays can cause cancer. We can also get it from solar UV rays.

But one trip to the doctor isn’t going to give you cancer.

The link between radiation and cancer risk tends to show up in studies of people who’ve been exposed to high doses of radiation, like people affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and people who have cancer, who are sometimes treated with high doses of radiation.

Still, the American Cancer Society cautions that “there is no threshold below which this kind of radiation is thought to be totally safe.”

Chronic, long-term, DNA-damaging inflammation

Chronic inflammation from things like long-term infections, bowel disease, or obesity can all damage a person’s DNA and lead to higher cancer rates.

Some plastics

Plastics can be dangerous, especially when they leach chemicals out through scratches or cracks in a container.

BPA is a synthetic estrogen that has been used in many plastics and resins since the 1960s. BPA resins can be used inside products like metal food cans as sealants, while polycarbonate BPA plastics can include water bottles and food storage containers.

BPA even shows up on the shiny side of receipt paper to stabilize the ink.

While many plastics manufacturers have started labeling their products “BPA-free,” there’s still a lot of the breast- and prostate-cancer-causing stuff around.


The browning of some foods cooked at high temperatures — like bread, coffee, or biscuits — produces a chemical compound called acrylamide.

This happens naturally in a process called the Maillard reaction.

But the dose of acrylamide in a toasty cup of coffee or a chewy cookie is probably not going to kill you — it’s dangerous when consumed in large doses (and it’s one of the toxic chemicals smokers inhale), but there’s no evidence that a little browning is harmful.

A California judged ruled this week that some companies that sell coffee sellers must include labels warning their customers about the possible cancer risks.

Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2018.

Read next on Business Insider: 11 potentially cancer-causing things you might use every day

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Late prostate cancer diagnosis ‘worries’

Image copyright Science Photo Library

Four in 10 prostate cancer cases in the UK are diagnosed late, a study suggests.

The report by charity Orchid found a “worrying trend” of late diagnosis with 37% of prostate cancer cases diagnosed at stages three and four.

The report found one in four cases of prostate cancer was diagnosed in A&E.

In February figures showed the number of men dying from prostate cancer had overtaken female deaths from breast cancer for the first time in the UK.

With an aging population, the charity has called for urgent action to prevent a “ticking time bomb in terms of prostate cancer provision”.

Orchid chief executive Rebecca Porta said: “With prostate cancer due to be the most prevalent cancer in the UK within the next 12 years, we are facing a potential crisis in terms of diagnostics, treatment and patient care. Urgent action needs to be taken now.”

The report canvassed the opinion of the UK’s leading prostate cancer experts and looked at previously published data to get a picture of the prostate cancer care across the UK.

The data came from organisations such as NHS England, charities and the National Prostate Cancer Audit.

The report says that 42% of prostate cancer patients saw their GP with symptoms twice or more before they were referred, with 6% seen five or more times prior to referral.

Greater awareness

Prof Frank Chinegwundoh, a urological surgeon at Bart’s Health NHS Trust said: “25% of prostate cancer cases in the UK are diagnosed at an advanced stage.

“This compares to just 8% in the US where there is greater public awareness of prostate cancer and greater screening,” he added.

He said while there was controversy over the effectiveness of the standard PSA test used to detect the cancer, “it is still vital that patients are diagnosed early to assess if they need treatment or not as advanced prostate cancer is incurable”.

The report also said there needed to be renewed efforts to develop better testing methods.

Prostate cancer symptoms

  • prostate cancer is diagnosed by using the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, biopsies and physical examinations
  • there can be few symptoms of prostate cancer in the early stages, and because of its location most symptoms are linked to urination
  • needing to urinate more often, especially at night
  • needing to run to the toilet
  • difficulty in starting to urinate
  • weak urine flow or taking a long time while urinating
  • feeling your bladder has not emptied fully
  • men with prostate cancer can also live for decades without symptoms or needing treatment because the disease often progresses very slowly

The PSA test is available free to any man aged 50 or over who requests it, but the report said this can “create inequity” with tests being taken up by “more highly educated men in more affluent areas”.

Prof Anne Mackie, director of programmes for the UK National Screening Committee, said the test was not offered universally because it was not very good at predicting which men have cancer.

“It will miss some cancers and often those cancers that are picked up when using the PSA test are not harmful,” she explained.

“Treatment for prostate cancer can cause nasty side effects so we need to be sure we are treating the right men and the right cancers.

“There is a lot of research into screening and treatment for prostate cancer and the committee, along with NICE and the NHS, is keeping a close eye on the evidence as it develops,” she added.

Related Topics

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Why Does Nanny-State California Hate Coffee So Much?

Last week, a judge in California sided with the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, which had filed a lawsuit in 2010 against establishments that sell coffeeStarbucks, gas station vendors, convenience stories like 7-Eleven, and so forthto tack on a warning to their coffee (not unlike a cigarettes Surgeon General warning) that each cup of java contains acrylamide, a chemical produced when coffee beans are roasted.

This, of course, incited backlash from everyday coffee fans to the National Coffee Association, which made a statement calling the ruling misleading, that it did nothing to improve public health.

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) is a part of the Metzger Law Group, which describes itself as a "boutique firm" focusing on environmental and toxic chemical exposure in California. In the lawsuit it brought against Starbucks, Metzger is described as "a California corporation, acting as a private attorney general, in the public interest.

The problem with its description as the plaintiff? Its overexaggeration of the carcinogenic potential of coffee consumption is in fact a potential public disservice.

To be clear, CERT isnt technically wrong that coffee contains acrylamides (a chemical regulated by the Food and Drug Administration) and of its cancer-causing potential.

In the National Toxicology Report, a cumulative breakdown of toxins and agents that scientists have found to cause cancer and produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, acrylamides are reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogeneity from studies in experimental animals (emphasis their own).

What does this mean? Scientists tested how acrylamides have affected mice and rats and have found symptoms ranging from benign thyroid and adrenal gland tumors to benign lung and mammary gland tumors. Those tumors occurred in a higher number of instances than the baseline level, which suggested to researchers of these studies that there was something about acrylamides that was problematic.

Sure, those are serious and damning results to take away from these experiments. But theres three blaring problems with declaring coffee as a carcinogen on equal footing with, say, cigarettes.

First, these are tumors that were found in rodents. While mice and rats are often used in animal experiments for drugs as a preliminary testing ground and model for humans, the fact is that they are mice and rodents, not humans. The way humans process enzymes and chemicals and additives and so forth can be very different and have effects that can vary wildly from what happens in humans.

Second, rodent experiments often focus on dumping one chemical in large amounts into a rodents system. For mice and rats in these experiments, which not only have smaller bodies than humans but also are intaking inhumanly larger quantities of the chemical being tested, that means that they develop irregularities that might not occur during normal human consumption. Theres no doubt that acrylamide can cause cancer in high doses and has been proven to instigate tumors in rodents. The closest link to cancer between coffee and humans was a study that suggested there might be a link between consuming hot beverages and esophageal cancer.

But the fact is that you would have to intentionally be consuming acrylamide at ridiculous, nearly impossible-to-consume doses to even be at risk of cancer. As Popular Science pointed out with the help of a statistician, it would take an adult at highest risk to consume 160 times as much as the rodents in these experiments. Even then, that would still only be at a level that toxicologists think unlikely to cause increased tumors in mice. In other words, solely focusing your entire diet on acrylamide and practically imbibing the stuff cant even guarantee that youeven micecould get a tumor.

Which brings us to the third problem with the acrylamide lawsuit and hoopla around its apparent cancer-causing properties. Its not just coffee that contains trace amounts of itits any food thats gone through high temperatures. That can be everything from fried chicken to roasted chicken, French fries to baked potatoes, those healthier versions of potato chips made out of root vegetables to roasted produce. To avoid acrylamides would require you to avoid virtually any food that is cooked.

The Report on Carcinogens says as much. They point to a correlation between male factory workers at places that process water soluble polymers (where acrylamides are often used) like oil recovery, water treatment facilities, and paper thickening processes. They also think there might be a correlation between Swedish, French, and American women, their diets, and instances of breast tissue showing signs of cancer, but the link was at best weak, and researchers admitted that other factors like smoking could have played a role. A 2017 meta-analysis in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention backs this up, stating the overall evidence suggests no association of coffee intake with cancers of the stomach, pancreas, lung, breast, ovary, and prostate overall.

So when CERT points to the fact that acrylamides are in coffee and back at Proposition 65which states that California businesses with more than ten employees are required by law to warn consumers if their products contain one of 65 chemicals that the state deems carcinogenic, causing birth defects, or harmful for reproductive systemstheres a need to pause and evaluate the real risk of acrylamides.

If were slapping on warnings on a cup of coffee that declares it to be just as harmful as a pack of cigarettes, thats a dangerous, illogical equivalency that results in confusion and fear mongering. Making coffee consumption the equivalent of slurping poison is ludicrous. Drinking a cup or two or even three of coffee will not be dangerous; at best, youre a little less groggy, at worst a bit jittery. But at risk of developing tumors and cancer? Probably not.

The blatant truth is that coffee can never be as violently carcinogenic as cigarettes, and calling it a cancer causing agent doesnt make sense, especially because no one drinks cups of coffee on end and therefore probably cant be poisoned by coffee in any way. In fact, the National Cancer Institute says as much on its website, noting that acrylamide levels vary and that people are exposed to substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food.

And there are certainly worse chemicals to worry about than a minute trace of acrylamides in coffee. Remember the trans fat bans that swept the nation about a decade ago? Hydrogenated fats are legitimately dangerous to consume, and the heightened attention given to their near-ubiquity in processed foods and ties to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke were well documented in humans to cause negative outcomes.

But acrylamides in coffee? Nah.

If anything, Proposition 65 and the case of labeling coffee as carcinogenic is indicative of the messiness of food studies, particularly with respect to those that teeter between sin and healthy indulgence. Theres probably no such thing as eating too many vegetables and facing negative consequences. But foods like coffee, eggs, wine, and chocolate fall in a grey area. Theyre lusciously sinful and offer something almost tantalizingly indulgent with their richness, so it makes sense that were always trying to gauge whether or not these foods that bring us so much joy are good or bad.

The messaging, of course, is frustrating. One minute wine is heralded for its antioxidant properties, the next its vilified for its connection to various liver issues. Chocolate is similarly celebrated for its antioxidant properties, but really, who only has one square of it? Eggs too have sparked debate among industry experts who point to the whites as excellent sources of protein and nutrients, but the yolk is one big nutritional question mark.

Coffee is like these foods, hopping back and forth between linked to a 64 percent decrease in early death and its current status as potential carcinogenic. Its apparent benefits address American health epidemics: reductions in developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease and stroke. Its benefits seem universal, linked to longer lives among Americans across demographic and socioeconomic lines, in both its caffeinated and decaffeinated forms. It might decrease rates of breast cancer and liver cancer. Of course, these are results that should be taken with a grain of salt, but theyre benefits worth noting in light of Californias painting of coffee as a demonic chemical.

The point is this: Everything in moderation is a great nutritional phrase because it rings so true. Every human body is different thanks to the complicated gymnastics of genes and environment and chance that make everyones nutritional needs different. Seeking to figure out if a food is good or bad does nothing but muddle the debate; simply put, foods that dont fall into fruits, vegetables, legumes, water, or their ilk have good and bad qualities to them, and understanding your unique physiology and dietary needs will make their consumption either safe or not so much so for you. And its crucial to remember that niche food industries have well-oiled marketing groups that also fund studies and constantly attempt to veer public attention towards the nutritional benefits of food to eek up their profits. Food is, after all, big business.

Which brings us back to the case of the evil cup of java, Proposition 65, and how coffee might become a villain in the state of California. Putting a warning on a cup of coffee is going to not only confuse customers, it takes away from a daily pleasure for the majority of Americans. A cup of coffee makes people less grumpy, more alert, and simply more awake. Its a bonding activity, a much-needed break in our harried world, and an art form whose most ardent fans will compare its roasting and farming and brewing to those of wine. To make coffee a nutritional devil is a step gone too far (at this rate, any foodstuff that goes through some heating for cooking could contain acrylamides).

The bottom line: Coffee is safe. Labeling it a carcinogenic is not.

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Telomeres Are the New Cholesterol. Now What?

“I am a bit concerned about your telomeres,” the doctor told me, evenly. Telomeres are the caplike segments at the ends of the strands of DNA that make up your chromosomes—think of the plastic aglets at the ends of a shoelace—and some of mine, he could see, were not as long as he would have liked them to be.

Fifteen years ago, geneticists at the University of Utah published the results of a small test with the following finding: People older than 60 with short telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease. It’s complicated, but essentially shorter telomeres make it more difficult for your cells to split and replicate, which can lead to diseased tissue, which, in turn, can lead to all manner of health problems. Other researchers have cautioned that larger, longitudinal studies are necessary before telomere length can be firmly established as a key indicator of aging. Still, at the edge of modern medicine, where the doctor I was seeing, Joseph Raffaele, practices, the length of your telomeres has become a key indicator, or what he calls a biomarker, of how well you’re aging. Raffaele talks of telomeres as a sort of “biological 401(k)”—molecular-­level security with which to fend off the health challenges of getting old.

Raffaele hadn’t literally seen those telomeres of mine. What he’d seen were the results of blood work carried out by a lab called Repeat Diagnostics, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has become a leader in the burgeoning field of telomere diagnostics. Burgeoning because, as Raffaele posits, “telomeres are the new cholesterol”—by which he means they are (A) something measurable and understood to have explanatory powers and (B) something Big Pharma can aim at in the hope of finding the equivalent of a statin to make them more robust.

Everyone’s telomeres shorten over time, and a lot of mine were fine enough, but the ones found in a type of cell called granulocytes were really short: bottom 10 percent for my age. Not good, should some serious disease come calling.

See more from the Life Issue.
April 2018. Subscribe to WIRED.

Nik Mirus

I was, chronologically, about to turn 65, as the day’s mail—Medicare enrollment forms, Social Security statements, brochures for cemetery plots—regularly reminded me. But Raffaele has staked his practice and his reputation on the belief that an individual’s muscles, organs, and bodily systems tend to age physiologically at different rates. You might have been born in 1958, and your cardio­vascular system might be that of a 60-year-old, but your lungs could be more like those of a 50-year-old and your immune system that of someone in their early seventies. Raffaele is a practitioner of age-management medicine, and he assesses several dozen biomarkers—things like telomeres and arterial stiffness—in order to assess patients and assign them a different so-called Immuno­Age, CardioAge, TelomerAge, NeuroAge, CutoAge, and PulmoAge.

In truth, medicine has not yet reached a consensus on how aging comes about, much less Pulmo­Aging. Growing old is one of the most complex biological processes. The mystery of how it works has, if anything, only grown more elusive as our sense of the physical self extends to include our genes, our microbiomes, our stresses. Moreover, Raffaele’s embrace of biomarkers for aging is not universally accepted. The National Institute on Aging concluded, after 10 years of trying to establish a set of such biomarkers, that none of them could be scientifically validated.

Nonetheless, there are thousands of age-­management practitioners worldwide. Raffaele’s own practice licenses its PhysioAge technology and protocols to scores of physicians. He and other age-­management physicians are experimenters, and their patients—who tend to be affluent, as out-of-pocket costs can run to more than $5,000 a year—are willing to experiment along with them. Raffaele doesn’t promise that his patients will live longer, necessarily—that’s a big ask—but he suggests they could live out their last years better, spending less time immobile, pained, and befogged.

I wanted this, for sure, but I was also seeking something else: to better understand my aging identity, not only in terms of my mind’s involutions and attachments but no less crucially through the corporeal expressions of my organs, muscles, systems, and cells. This side of age-management medicine draws on the tools of molecular diagnostics, imaging, and data analytics. What has been my embodied life arc? Who am I, deep inside? And why?

The length of certain telomeres, Raffaele explained, not only tends to correlate with the healthiness of various organ systems; it “gives a history of all the assaults a person has been subject to over the course of her lifetime.” Hearing this, my mind drifted to the blockage from my stomach to my intestines that nearly killed me as a 6-week-old, as my mother regularly reminded me until her death two years ago; and then moved on to scarlet fever, which, when I contracted it as a 7-year-old, kept me quarantined for nearly two months and thus, in its way, determined what I would devote my life to: reading. Such are my memories. Were those short telomeres molecular memories?

It turns out that biological self-­knowledge is not easy even with a trail of biomarkers. Telomere shortening is often a result of chronic or acute inflammation, research suggests, but my inflammation was lower than average, according to another test Raffaele had analyzed. Stress? Not a problem—at least now, in semiretirement. My cortisol level (another lab test) was “optimal.” Still, when my data was analyzed in Raffaele’s system, I had the ImmunoAge of a 71-year-old. “I’m going to say it’s genetic,” Raffaele told me. Despite the efforts I made to eat right and exercise, my disease-fending self was old before its time.

Raffaele, 58, was trained as an internist. He was practicing in New Hampshire in the 1990s when his parents began showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and he was struck by how little he could do for them. Could there be preventive care with regard to aging?

Since then Raffaele has become one of the more outspoken proponents of evaluating biomarkers for physiological age. He was spurred, he said, by a remark from Robert Butler, the founding director of the National Institute on Aging and, until his death in 2010, arguably the country’s most prominent aging expert. Butler pointed out to Raffaele that conventional medicine had established multiple ways of measuring vital signs, like blood pressure, and setting them against baselines of a broader public. What, Butler wanted to know, was Raffaele using to determine a valid baseline? How did he know his therapies were working? “I went searching for the biomarkers of aging,” Raffaele says.

Biomarkers themselves are nothing new in medicine. When a series of tests over time reveals a rapidly rising presence of prostate-specific antigen in a man’s blood, it’s a valid indicator that he may be developing prostate cancer. But aging is far less specific than prostate cancer. And the search for its biomarkers is in its infancy, with no generally agreed upon number of biomarkers or standards for measurement among the practitioners of age-­management medicine. Raffaele’s system is proprietary and thus can’t be scrutinized, but he will say that he draws on large databases of patients who have taken his baseline exam, along with larger databases provided by the companies that do the blood testing and whose machines he uses for scanning. He also monitors the change over time in biomarkers he assesses. If my telomeres were to be no shorter 10 years from now, for instance, then they’d no longer be much of a concern.

My exam at Raffaele’s office began with a pretty typical form on which I filled in my medical history and recorded my diet and exercise habits. Next, I sat one morning for an hour at home, taking a series of neurological tests on my laptop: the CNS Vital Signs tests, which evaluate the main areas of cognitive function by taxing them relentlessly for 20 minutes; the Stroop test, which measures reaction time; and the Symbol Digit Coding test, to test the aging of the frontal lobes of the brain.

A week or so later, I showed up at the offices on Central Park South in New York: small but elegant, with walls of pale bamboo and a certain hush. I was the only patient there. Raffaele was off at a conference. I was led to a small room, where I was seated in a recliner and a technician drew eight full vials and a half-dozen half-vials of blood. It took a while. Then, after measuring my height and weight and taking my blood pressure, the technician walked me from one machine to the next, scanning, among other things, my carotid and other arteries (with an ultrasound imaging gadget) and obtaining a snapshot of my body fat and muscle distribution with an InBody body-composition-analysis device. It was painless and done in 20 minutes. It was, too, all but completely lacking in those small but psychically significant reassurances we expect from a physical examination. If this is the physical of the future, we are going to have to accustom ourselves to the indifferent graze of whirring, chirping machines.

Raffaele shook my hand when we met, a month after the office visit. Then he settled behind his desk and powered up a touchscreen computer. No lab coat, no stethoscope dangling from his neck: He wore a trim suit with a lavender tie and looked a good deal younger than 58.

There was good news as he walked me through his analysis. I’d entered my sixties training to become a serious senior tennis player, so it didn’t surprise me that my resting heart rate was “athletic,” my arteries were clear of plaque, and my resulting CardioAge was 43. My NeuroAge (processing speed) was “younger” than my chronological age, too.

But the short telomeres in my granulocytes cast a shadow. And then my PulmoAge turned out to be … 81! Really? I ran around a tennis court and regularly did interval sprints. Spirometry, which measures how much and how quickly you exhale, told a different story, however. Raffaele didn’t seem too worried. I had a small rib cage, which meant smaller lungs, he said. “Keep up the interval training.”

My overall PhysioAge, as he computed it, was 61. “You’re in good shape,” he said. But there was room for improvement. I needed to keep up the exercise and healthy diet. I should take vitamin D-3, he advised, to bolster my immune system. I might also consider human-growth-hormone therapy. “Hormone optimization,” as Raffaele put it, plays an important role in his practice. Raffaele himself has for 20 years been taking HGH, testosterone, thyroid hormone, and DHEA. There have been warnings about side effects of hormone therapies—from muscle and joint pain to the exacerbation of cardiac problems—but research to gauge the long-term benefits or risks of such therapies has been inconclusive so far.

The short telomeres in my granulocytes cast a shadow. And my PulmoAge turned out to be … 81!

So, being 61 PhysioAge-wise: Was it any different than being 65? It wasn’t. I did start to worry about the telomeres and my immune system. I’ve been surprised at how many of my friends seem to know about telomeres and seem concerned when I mention my shortened ones. Telomeres, in that sense, are the new cholesterol. I worried, too, that all this testing could be seen as a supreme act of vanity: A guy in good shape for his age dropping thousands of dollars on tests out of curiosity while much of his cohort nationwide struggles with hypertension and diseases like diabetes.

But who we are, physically, is a significant measure of our identity. And I suspect that science will reveal this more exactingly and profoundly in the years to come. Cicero thought that the body’s decline over time was a blessing in its way, leaving more time for learning and reflection by those truer aspects of ourselves, the mind and soul. That view is being challenged. The health of the mind (science doesn’t speak to the soul) may well depend to no small extent on genes and molecules in your gut that Cicero could not have imagined the existence of.

As those molecules become more measurable, and as the meaning behind their signals becomes clearer, it’s worth considering just how much self-knowledge we want. Do you want to know about your own shortened telomeres? Or worse, about some gene mutation, say, that suggests you have a better than even chance of developing an untreatable disease?

If you’re like me, you want to know everything: To comprehend is to live. The smalling down on the path to death is a diminishment that’s never been easy to navigate. It could be made less physically challenging by the kind of diagnostics and treatment Raffaele and others like him are working toward. But knowing yourself, never uncomplicated, is likely to get no less fraught. Just deeper.

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Wii Bowling's Golden YearsThe Testosterone MythHow to Live ForeverDesigning the FutureAging on DemandThe Liquefied BurialSolving Health Issues at All Stages

Gerald Marzorati is a former editor of The New York Times Magazine and author of Late to the Ball: A Journey into Tennis and Aging.

This article appears in the April issue. Subscribe now.

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Coffee may come with a cancer warning label in California

(CNN)A preliminary decision from a California superior court judge in Los Angeles could affect thousands of coffee shops including Starbucks, 7-Eleven and even your local gas station.

The shops may have to put up a warning that tells customers there is a possible cancer risk linked to their morning jolt of java. The court said in a statement Wednesday that the companies “failed to meet their burden of proof on their Alternative Significant Risk Level affirmative defense” and ruled against them.
California keeps a list of chemicals it considers possible causes of cancer. One of them is acrylamide, which is created when coffee beans are roasted. The chemical stays in the coffee you drink in what the court called a “high amount.”
    A lawsuit first filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2010 by the nonprofit Council for Education and Research on Toxics targeted several companies that make or sell coffee. The suit asked for damages and a label to warn consumers.
    “It’s not a final decision yet, but I do think this is big news, and I’m much relieved after eight years of work on this,” said attorney Raphael Metzger. “It’s a good day for public health.”
    The initial court documents state that, under the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65, businesses must give customers a “clear and reasonable warning” about the presence of high levels of this chemical, that is consider toxic and carcinogenic and can impact a drinker’s health — and that these stores failed to do so.
    The coffee companies argued in court that the level of acrylamide in coffee should be considered safe under the law and that the health benefits of coffee essentially outweigh the risk. The court did not agree.
    At least 13 of the defendants had settled prior to this decision and agreed to give a warning, including 7-Eleven, according to Metzger. The other coffee companies, including Starbucks, waited for a court decision.
    “Coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage. This lawsuit has made a mockery of Prop 65, has confused consumers, and does nothing to improve public health,” William Murray, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association, said in an emailed statement.
    Coffee has been much studied over the years, and research has shown that it provides several health benefits, including lowering your risk of early death. It may reduce your risk of heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even some cancers like melanoma and prostate cancer. However, a review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, found that drinking very hot beverages was “probably carcinogenic to humans” due to burns to the esophagus; there was no relation to the chemical acrylamide.
    The science on human exposure to acrylamide still needs “future studies,” according to a 2014 review of scientific research on the chemical’s relationship to a wide variety of cancers in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer.
    In addition to coffee, acrylamide can be found in potatoes and baked goods like crackers, bread and cookies, breakfast cereal, canned black olives and prune juice, although its presence is not always labeled. It’s in some food packaging and is a component of tobacco smoke. According to the National Cancer Institute, people are exposed to “substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food.”
    In 2002, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified acrylamide as a group 2A carcinogen for humans based on studies done in animals. Studies done on humans have found “no statistically significant association between dietary acrylamide intake and various cancers,” according to the 2014 research review.
    A few additional studies have seen an increased risk for renal, ovarian and endometrial cancers; however, “the exposure assessment has been inadequate leading to potential misclassification or underestimation of exposure,” according to the 2014 research review.
    Even the studies showing cancer links between acrylamide in rats and mice used doses “1,000 to 100,000 times higher than the usual amounts, on a weight basis, that humans are exposed to through dietary sources,” the research review said.
    Humans are also thought to absorb acrylamide at different rates and to metabolize it differently than rodents, earlier research showed.
    The National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens considers acrylamide to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
    The Food and Drug Administration website says it “is still in the information gathering stage” on the chemical, but it suggested ways for consumers to cut it out of their diet. The FDA also provided guidance to the industry intended to suggest a range of approaches companies could use to reduce acrylamide levels. The recommendations are only a guide and are “not required,” according to the website.
    California added acrylamide to its carcinogen list in January 1990, and the state has successfully taken companies to court over it.
    In 2008, the California attorney general settled lawsuits against Heinz, Frito-Lay, Kettle Foods and Lance Inc. when the companies agreed to reduce the levels of acrylamide found in potato chips and French fries.
    In 2007, fast food restaurants in California posted acrylamide warnings about fries and paid court penalties and costs for not posting the warnings in prior years.

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    “We have a huge cancer epidemic in this country, and about a third of cancers are linked to diet,” Metzger said. “To the extent that we can get carcinogens out of the food supply, logically, we can reduce the cancer burden in this country. That’s what this is all about.”
    Companies now have until April 10 to file objections to the proposed decision, Metzger said, and then there should be a final decision. A judge will then help decide what the penalties and remedy should be, if companies don’t settle before then.

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    Stephen Colbert mocks Trump for saying Roseanne is ‘about us’

    I cant wait for the episode where John Goodman blows the vacation money paying off a porn star, Colbert said

    Late-night hosts on Thursday discussed Donald Trumps appointment of White House physician Ronny Jackson as secretary of veterans affairs and Trumps comments on the success of the Roseanne reboot.

    Stephen Colbert

    Today, the president was in Ohio talking about infrastructure, began Stephen Colbert. Check your calendars: it is always infrastructure week.

    Colbert showed a clip of Trump extolling his favorite part of building: the smell of a construction site. I love it, its the smell of loans from my daddy and looming bankruptcy, the host joked. But again, this was an infrastructure rally, so naturally he talked about Roseanne.

    In more footage from the speech, Trump praised the new season of Roseanne, in which Roseannes character is a Trump supporter. Look at her ratings! Trump yelled, referencing the 18 million people who tuned into the premiere. And it was about us!

    I havent seen it yet, but Roseanne is about the Trumps? said Colbert. I cant wait for the episode where John Goodman blows the vacation money paying off a porn star.

    Trump, at the same rally, bragged about the changes he made in the veterans affairs, explained the host, noting the dismissal of David Shulkin and appointment of Ronny Jackson.

    One of the reasons that Shulkin lost his job is that he abused his travel privileges and was accused of lying about it, Colbert said, before examining Jacksons credentials for the job. Now, Im sure hes a good doctor. No reason to believe hes not. He was Obamas doctor, too. The VA is the second largest agency in our government, serving 22 million veterans. And Jackson is just some guy he met wearing a paper robe.

    Evidently, Trump just hires people he sees around him, he concluded. We are one delivery away from having defense secretary Dominos guy.

    Trevor Noah

    Comedy Centrals Trevor Noah also addressed the personnel change at the VA.

    Yesterday, President Trump tweet-announced that he was appointing the White House physician Adm Ronny Jackson to be the new secretary of veterans affairs, said the host. As with most Trump decisions, it seemed like this might be a very terrible, bad idea.

    The host then showed various news clips in which commentators wondered if Jackson was unprepared, given that hes never managed a government agency before, let alone one as big as the VA.

    The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow)

    TONIGHT: Running the VA is no easy task, but then again, neither is handling Trump’s prostate.

    March 30, 2018

    Unprepared? They say this about every Trump person, Noah joked. They said the same thing about Trump and look, everythings going great.

    In my opinion, anyone who has held Trumps scrotum while he coughs is prepared for anything in this world, Noah continued. This guy has probed deeper than even Robert Mueller has. But while fingering Donald Trumps prostate may sound like a joke, the veterans affairs department does not.

    Noah then explained that the governments second-largest agency has a budget exceeding $200bn per year and over 360,000 employees.

    Managing a $200bn a year organization is no small task, Noah said. Thats bigger than General Motors. Like, you wouldnt say, Yo, my friend Ralphies a great driver. I think he should run GM.

    Noah concluded: But thats basically what Trump does. He wants his personal pilot to run the FAA. For Housing and Urban Development he was like: Yo, Ben Carson. Youre urban. You work. And now, for veterans affairs, Trump is like, Hes my doctor, hes a veteran, I have affairs. Its perfect.

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    How Science Is Solving Health Issues at All Stages of Life

    Health issues hit us in different ways at different ages. Here are some big ones science and tech are helping to solve.

    Age 0 — 12


    Roughly 8 percent of kids in the US suffer from food allergies—often from peanuts. Epicutaneous immunotherapy could help. It’s a skin patch with a layer of peanut protein that activates immune cells that travel to the lymph nodes (which help control allergic response) without entering the bloodstream. The patch is still in trials, but the hope is that it will promote tolerance without triggering a nutty reaction.


    Studies show that interventions before age 4 result in significant gains in cognition, language, and adaptive behavior, but autism is difficult to predict early enough. Scientists have used artificial intelligence to create a method for analyzing brain connectivity in babies’ fMRIs; it was able to predict with greater than 96 percent accuracy whether a 6-month-old would develop autism by age 2.

    See more from the Life Issue.
    April 2018. Subscribe to WIRED.

    Nik Mirus


    By around 6 months old, a baby’s brain prunes itself to specialize in the language and sounds it has been hearing since birth. Deaf infants are at risk of missing this crucial turning point in development, even after receiving cochlear implants. Scientists have created a machine-learning algorithm that parses babies’ MRIs to predict language development and determine if they’ll need extra help.


    Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is the most common visual impairment in US children. Early studies have shown virtual-reality games can be more effective than the traditional eye-patch treatment (yarrr!). VR systems beam different images to each eye to create the illusion of 3-D, so the game can be designed to deliver crucial information (flying asteroids, for example) in the image shown to the weaker eye. This trains the brain and both eyes to work together—and might give a head start to future e-athletes.

    Age 13 — 26


    Nearly a tenth of high school sports injuries are concussions, but it’s notoriously difficult to gauge their severity. One recent study found that the level of tau protein in the blood of students who had suffered a concussion corresponded with the length of time the young athlete needed to recover. A simple blood test that can reliably predict recovery time might not be far off.


    Some 3.1 million adolescents in the US suffered at least one major depressive episode in 2016. They might want to talk to a new chatbot that’s schooled in cognitive behavioral therapy. it inquires about mood daily and trains the user to reframe negative thinking (“Life comes at you pretty fast. A wise man named Ferris Bueller said that.”) and set manageable goals.


    Type 1 diabetes often emerges in the early teen years, when managing the disease—measuring blood glucose levels and injecting insulin multiple times a day—can be tough. To alleviate the burden, an insulin pump system for patients 14 and up, called the MiniMed 670G, automatically monitors glucose levels and uses an algorithm to determine when to administer precise insulin infusions.


    More than 4 million young people now live with HIV worldwide. Treatment has made huge strides—the illness is no longer necessarily a death sentence. But controlling the disease requires patients to follow a complicated daily regimen of pills. To ease that, scientists have designed a six-pronged capsule that patients take just once a week: The prongs are composed of different polymers that dissolve at different rates, delivering drugs over several days.

    Age 27 — 54


    Most cancers don’t hit until later in life, but doctors recommend some patients in their thirties and forties get screened for colon, prostate, breast, and cervical cancers. Scientists are now developing so-called liquid biopsies to detect molecules shed by tumors in blood or urine—a less invasive, less painful, and more easily repeated process than a tissue biopsy.


    For women under 35, the chance of one cycle of IVF ($12,000 and up!) working is only about 50 percent. Researchers have developed a small microfluidics device to help select which sperm to use for IVF: The cells swim through a sort of obstacle course that screens for the healthiest, fastest, most normal-­shaped sperm. The hope is that the overachievers will raise the chances of IVF success.


    Scientists are getting closer to creating a universal vaccine that would be effective against multiple influenza strains (eliminating yearly shots—yay!). One strategy is to target a protein on the virus’s outer surface called hemagglutinin, which the bug uses to invade cells. The protein’s head mutates often, but its stem usually stays the same across strains—making it a promising Achilles’ heel for antibodies.


    In 2015, people age 35 to 54 made up more than a third of all suicides. Researchers are exploring using data from smartphone sensors to monitor mental health. Depressed people, for instance, move around less, which can be tracked with a phone’s GPS and accelerometer. Sleep patterns are often disrupted, which researchers can see via the hours when someone uses their phone. All this allows doctors to capture data beyond what patients self-report.

    Age 55 — Infinity


    Earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s would allow for treatments that could reverse symptoms and slow cognitive decline. In 2017, scientists created an Alzheimer’s test by sifting through data from 70,000 seniors and zooming in on 31 genetic markers associated with the disease. It accurately determines one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s—and how that risk changes as you grow older. (Spoiler alert: It gets higher.)


    Kidney disease affects 14 percent of US adults, and the vast majority of them are older than 60. The treatment options are less than awesome: Dialysis is a short-term, expensive solution, and donor organs are scarce. Now a group of researchers and doctors are developing an implantable artificial kidney that filters blood through silicon membranes and runs on the body’s own blood pressure.


    The median age of a lymphoma diagnosis is 67, and chemotherapy doesn’t always work to treat it. Scientists are exploring a new weapon called CAR T cell therapy. They collect a patient’s own T cells from their blood, affix receptors engineered to lock onto cancerous cells, and release them back into the patient to carry out search and destroy missions.


    Mitochondria, the organelles that produce energy your cells run on, gather mutations as you age—and begin to malfunction. Scientists suspect they play a crucial role in aging, possibly because they’re involved with metabolic processes, which slow as people get older. A molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide could juice the system. It acts as fuel for a protein that helps produce mitochondria, and scientists think it could be used as a supplement to treat metabolic decline.

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    This article appears in the April issue. Subscribe now.

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    LetsGetChecked raises $12M for its personal health tests

    LetsGetChecked, an Irish startup that offers a health test kit service so that you can take various common laboratory tests from the comfort of your home, has picked up $12 million in Series A funding.

    Leading the round is Optum Ventures, the independent venture fund of health services provider Optum, and Qiming Venture Partners, the Chinese VC firm.

    The funding will be used to scale the company, including growing the LetsGetChecked full clinical support team. In addition, the health tech startup plans to further invest in its technology platform that links customers to laboratories, and to continue expanding to the U.S. where it has an office in New York.

    Founded in 2014 by Peter Foley, LetsGetChecked has set out to build a technology and logistics platform to bridge the gap between traditional lab testing and consumers. The startup’s home testing kits span a number of categories including “lifestyle testing,” cancer screening, sexual health testing, fertility, and hormone testing.

    “Our aim is to make lab testing better, more convenient and patient led,” Foley tells me. “Traditionally, you need to attend a doctor’s office to obtain a lab test. The physician will determine what test is right for you, complete a paper requisition form, collect your sample and send it off to the lab for analysis. You will wait for a period of time to hear back from your physician and may never see the results. This is a slow process and far from convenient”.

    Instead, LetsGetChecked mirrors the process that happens in a doctor’s office but in a way that Foley claims puts the patient at the center and makes it more convenient. “We eliminate the middleman and link customers directly to labs enabling them to better manage and control their personal health,” Foley says.

    First you decide which tests or groups of tests you wish to access based on hereditary risk, curiosity or simply for health monitoring purposes. You then order the test via LetsGetChecked, which will be authorised by a medical board certified LetsGetChecked physician. A test kit is then dispatched from a LetsGetChecked accredited facility direct to your home. It is also worth noting that the kits are anonymised, containing just a barcode.

    Once the test kit arrives, you’re responsible for collecting your own sample, whether that be finger prick, stool (for colorectal cancer), or a swab. You then send the sample to LetsGetChecked and can track progress via the app ‘dashboard’ at any stage during the process or request a call from the clinical team. When the lab processes the sample, the corresponding result will be reviewed by a LetsGetChecked physician and the company’s nursing support team.

    “For positive or out of range results, patients will get a call from the team to discuss treatment options,” says Foley. “Only after a consultation will the results be released to the patient’s dashboard where the customer can track and monitor their health over time”.

    The tests themselves range hugely in cost, from £39 for a cortisol test, £69 for a prostate cancer test, all the way up to £500 for a BRCA check (why is it that breast cancer tests are 7 times more expensive than testing for prostate cancer). Despite the extra convenience that a service like LetsGetChecked affords, the price of each test soon adds up and begs the question as to why you wouldn’t just visit your GP and request the same tests for free through the NHS.

    Meanwhile, the LetsGetChecked founder wouldn’t be drawn on who the startup’s direct competitors are — although in the U.K., Thriva is an obvious example — except to say it was focused internally on innovating and building on its technology platform.

    “The aim is to make the patient experience more enriched over time and through API integrations provide for a more consolidated and cohesive healthcare engagement,” he says, hinting at future partners as another way to market. No doubt the strategic investment from Optum Ventures will be able to help on that front, too.

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