Genomics meets Wireless: Elegant, individualized medicine

By Brian Dolan

Dr. Eric TopolThe way that we listen to music these days is completely different from the way it used to be; the way we communicate via electronic messaging is also very different; so is the way we read books thanks to devices like Amazon's Kindle, explained The West Wireless Health Institute's Dr. Eric Topol at the Qualcomm Smart Services Summit in San Diego this morning.

"Wouldn't it be natural -- knowing that in a very short period of time our world has changed -- that we could apply these devices to healthcare," Topol continued. "Reading, listening to music and communicating... healthcare can change in the same way."

Topol noted that thanks to "extremely ingenius developments in wireless sensors" coupled with breakthroughs in genomics, we are now able to "profile the individual in an exquisite and elegant way."

Topol gave three key examples for ways that genomic profiling can be paired with wireless sensor technologies to bring about these elegant preventive medicine services.

Obesity: Topol noted that the percentage of obese people in the U.S. has doubled since 1991 and that it continues to rise, calling it seemingly "unstoppable." In California, for example, about 10 percent of the population was considered obese in 1991, but now it's around 21 percent of the population.

We now have uncovered the the genetic contribution to non-syndromic human obesity, Topol explained: "We now know at birth who is likely to be unequivocablly associated with the propensity to become obese."

A wireless health solution like the one Philometron is developing, would enable users to keep track of "calories in and calories out" through the use of a wireless "band aid" equipped with sensors that can report the metrics to the user's smartphone.

"That's doable -- it's just a matter of when," Topol said. "... [People] sure aren't going to be looking up [their calorie intake] on a calorie book... This is the biggest chance we have at improving obesity around the world."

Atrial fibrillation: Another example where genomics can work together with wireless health services is with atrial fibrillation. Topol said we are now able to screen the genome for the likelihood of atrial fibrillation. After finding a person is genetically predisposed to atrial fibrillation, we would then know to do a wireless 30 day cardiac rhythm monitoring, Topol said.

"That can only be captured via wireless means," Topol said. Once the arrythmias are pinpointed there are ways to potentially cure it whether through ablation or inhibitory drugs, Topol explained.

Breast Cancer: Topol said we also already know the genes that predispose people to breast cancer. We can partition women who are more likely to get breast cancer and screen this group much more in-depth -- beyond mammographies -- using ultrasound to monitor their condition much more closely. Some of these ultrasound can even be conducted at home using a wireless ultrasound device that can then transmit the images to clinicians.