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Brainstorm Health Daily: April 21, 2017

Last week I spent a day at the venerable Cleveland Clinic—the city’s best-known celebrity, perhaps, next to this guy. The hospital (and really, it’s a hospital system with outposts in several cities in the U.S. and abroad) has always been on the spear point of progress—but that has been particularly true over the past 13 years, under the guidance of CEO Toby Cosgrove.

As I wrote in my editor’s letter for Fortune’s souped-up Future Issue (on newsstands very soon), I visited Ohio’s second-largest city to check out a cool piece of technology that the Clinic—and its Cleveland cousin, Case Western Reserve University—are using to teach meds students anatomy: and teach it in a whole new, dynamic, and interactive way.

Case Western’s Dr. Mark Griswold, a professor of radiology who is an expert in magnetic resonance imaging, has worked with colleagues to build a “virtual anatomy” tool on the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality platform. Put on the HoloLens visor, plug in the human circulation program (one of various anatomy modules that Griswold’s team has built), and you’ll find yourself staring at a life-size, 3D human figure, with every vein and artery in perfect bodily placement and scale.

You can walk around this anatomically correct scaffold, spying organs and tissues from any angle, and poke your head in to see the interior of, say, a heart. Within, you’ll see that organ’s distinct chambers—and within those, the discrete valves.

What is most striking is that this body seems to take up real physical space. (Dr. Griswold points out that nearly everyone who has sampled the program walks around the Da Vincian figure’s outstretched skeletal hands so as not to “bump into” them.) Everyone who dons the goggles sees the same images, making medical instruction easier—and the fact that you experience the real world along with the virtual one makes conversation and consultation easier, too. (Seeing this demo with Dr. Cosgrove, a former heart surgeon who pioneered techniques for valve repair that are widely used to this day, was an extra treat.)

In AR anatomy, the real merges fluidly with the imagined; the laws of the physical world bend just enough to allow for a four-dimensional understanding (3D plus a magnified view of the interior), but not so much that it makes you queasy.

The idea is to teach students anatomy in a way that they absorb the knowledge more readily, more intuitively—and more quickly. Seeing and “touching” intertwined veins and arteries as they navigate through the human form gives you an understanding of circulation that is difficult (or maybe impossible) to get by studying even the most finely etched schematic in a textbook.

And the better and faster they learn the human roadmap, the sooner these budding surgeons can start driving on their own—which is to say, repairing living bodies.

Have a great weekend. And if you like getting this Brainstorm Health Daily, please share with a friend. We’re not just sending out a newsletter every day, we’re building a community. Thank you all for being a part of it.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE


Elon Musk wants to link human brains with computers in the next four years. Tesla chief Elon Musk’s newest outfit, Neuralink Corp, is striving to create brain-machine interfaces. And it wants to do it within the next four years with the help of tiny little devices the size of microns. Musk tells Wait But Why that the technology will resemble “consensual telepathy” and that it could help people with severe brain injuries. Eventually, the idea is to offer even healthy human brains a computer sidekick that can help communicate vast amounts of data without the need to convert into speech or written/typed words. (Fortune)

WellDoc, Samsung to offer diabetes app via Samsung Health and wearables. Mobile health firm WellDoc will offer its BlueStar C diabetes health app through the new Samsung Health platform, which Samsung recently launched as a hub for its various wellness and health-related offerings. Furthermore, the BlueStar app will be able to be integrated with Samsung Gear, the tech giant’s suite of fitness trackers and smartwatches. Like many diabetes apps, WellDoc’s tech offers lifestyle assists such as keeping track of glucose levels and day-to-day biometrics, as well as online support communities to help patients stay at their blood sugar targets.


Gilead’s liver drug may pay off yet. Certain biotech observers have been scratching their heads for a while now pondering why biotech giant Gilead hasn’t struck a major deal in order to bolster its pipeline as its flagship hepatitis C drug units struggle under payer pushback and new competition. Gilead has a preliminary response of sorts, announcing promising new data for an experimental treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) that it snatched up from Nimbus for $600 million upfront. The therapy, GS-0976, was able to significantly ax liver fat levels (which causes the stiffness and other problems associated with NASH) in early proof-of-concept trials. Several companies (including Allergan and others) are attempting to produce drugs for NASH, which doesn’t have a whole lot of effective options on the market right now. (Endpoints)

Valeant takes on psoriasis rivals with lower price for Siliq. Valeant’s Siliq isn’t exactly on par with new drugs in the extremely lucrative psoriasis treatment space, such as Novartis’ Cosentyx and Eli Lilly’s Taltz. It comes with a black box warning regarding the risk of suicidal thoughts. But Valeant hopes that it can attract physician and consumer interest by appealing to their pocketbooks—the company is setting a list price of $42,000 per year for Siliq, which is cheaper than other medicines in the space. That could go down even further during negotiations with insurers and benefits managers; but, then again, Novartis and Lilly’s list prices aren’t the ones payers pay, either, and they may be hesitant to cover a drug that comes with such a serious black box warning.


New guidelines warn against giving kids products with codeine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strengthened its warnings against giving kids and teenagers cough syrups and painkillers that contain codeine or tramadol. The agency will now require the labels on all medicines containing those drugs to warn against their use in certain children between the ages of 12 to 18 (such as those who are obese or have breathing problems); furthermore, kids under the age of 12 shouldn’t take codeine-containing products at all. (NPR)

Dow Chemical asks Trump officials to ignore damning pesticide reports. The Associated Press got its hands on a letter that Dow Chemical sent to three separate Trump administration Cabinet officials—the Secretaries of Commerce (Wilbur Ross), the Interior (Ryan Zinke), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt—telling them to “set aside” reams of previous government studies finding that a commonly used class of pesticides presents a danger to threatened species. These kinds of observed effects in animals sometimes can foretell issues that have yet to be observed in human. Dow, for its part, says that these studies are flawed. “No pest control product has been more thoroughly evaluated, with more than 4,000 studies and reports examining chlorpyrifos in terms of health, safety and the environment,” said the company in a statement, adding that it “actively participates in policymaking and political processes, including political contributions to candidates, parties and causes, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws.” (Fortune)


Petco Cleared of Negligence In Death of 10-Year-Old Boy Who Contracted Rat-Bite Feverby Joseph Hincks

Startups Rarely File for Bankruptcy. Could that Change? by Erin Griffith

What’s Making China Inc. Go Globalby Alan Murray

Why Google’s Ability to Recognize Multiple Voices Is a Big Dealby Adam Lashinsky

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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