I’m starting to get quite used to being in quarantine. Let’s say I’m getting better and better at becoming a “remote student”. I’m pleased that our school also introduced some online lessons, although I wished for that to happen earlier. Besides that, I picked up some great new books, started learning another programming language and continue to write this newsletter, which I very much enjoy. I’m not doing that bad after all.
I’ll tell you one thing though…it’s tough to find resources unrelated to COVID-19 these days. Now on to the MashUp.
Wearables & Tech
Sleep is getting more and more popular as we discover new surprising benefits. It’s interesting how we’re able to first deprive ourselves of sleep (and ignore its importance) and then “rebound” to the other side of the argument. Tech companies are starting to realise that. Almost every wearable is tracking sleep, smartphone apps can do it and even meditation apps such as Headspace now feature a section to improve sleep.
Flu & Vaccines
3.5 million people get flu and about 500,000 die from it every year around the world. Although we have vaccines, a lot of people get sick. Why is that? That’s because the virus mutates and we’re never sure which one will cause the seasonal flu. But careful monitoring usually leads to an effective vaccine. That’s also why we have to vaccinate every year to be protected. The type is determined by 2 proteins on the virus - hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N), H1N1 for example. I recently saw a documentary on Netflix called Pandemic. Many of the scientists and people who are into virology believe that the next big pandemic will be the flu pandemic (well, we’ll see about COVID-19). And we’re not ready for it.
Speaking of the flu, wouldn’t it be great if we only had to vaccinate once? Yes, take polio for example - you’re vaccinated as a baby and that’s it. It’s different with the flu, but there is a company called Distributed Bio. They already received a Gates Foundation grant for its development.
The Great Empty
There are not only bad things that will come out of this pandemic. As you may have seen, the water in Venice is cleaner, dolphins are swimming in the marines and CO2 emissions have dramatically decreased. This right here is my favourite article to date about the COVID-19. I like that it’s not just about the pandemic, but the consequences it has. Specifically, about how some of the world’s biggest attractions are now abandoned. The photos are stunning.
An awesome piece got published in Nature Medicine this month. It’s about cardiometabolic disease and how we handle them. It turns out patients’ data from different fields is very fragmented and not linked to constructive life advice. It’s always easy to get stuck into details and be reductionist. The idea is to design an all-round screening process for cardiometabolic diseases. This means measuring and identifying parameters that contribute to these diseases weight, diabetes, fatty liver, blood pressure, etc.).
These parameters are put into a unified scoring system ready for doctors’ assessment. So far so good, except that the screening process is a bit slow. But what is even slower is prevention. Suddenly we would have a lot of data, but the greatest potential benefit would be personalised advice for a lifestyle change (nutrition, exercise, etc.). Of course, another challenge is communicating it. The best way is to make small, gradual and frequent changes. It’s a great sign that medical research is following the newest trends and ideas.