Archive for the 'Outing In-formation' Category


Back on the horse that threw me

Back in late June 2009 I started on what I wanted to be a permanent health maintenance program. For one thing I was approaching retirement age. I realized with crystalline clarity that I couldn’t put off getting on a permanent exercise, better-nutrition program anymore. Time has run out on having a chance to reverse the years of benign neglect and broken self-promises. And, frankly, I got scared from seeing the point of no return of real old age peeking over the horizon. I’ve spent way too many days in long-term care facilities with relatives to ignore the unpleasant last years that many experience.  From what I’ve seen, if you want your life to end with some grace and dignity you’ve got to get active to make that happen.

I did pretty well starting and keeping a basic program in ’09. Then in the last few weeks  something entirely predictable happened: holidays, over-indulgence, relatives in the house, and, finally, a head cold. So I stopped for two weeks. But part of what I agreed with myself to do from the outset was not to take interruptions as failure. It’s just necessary to get back on the horse and get on with the journey. So Monday I hit reset and started anew. Below is a list of the modest set of things I’m trying to do. I’ll be sharing more about how these elements are going because I think they reflect some of the elements of Health 2.0 and newly available technology that will become part of individual health routines.

  1. I set goals that I can live with. Big goals? Nah, I’ve been there, done that, and I realize they’re not for me in the long run. I’m doing modest but not trivial daily exercise and diet limitations I can stick to the rest of my life. I’m preparing a chart of my goals that I’ll publish on Google Docs and link to on this site.
  2. I got an iPhone last July because I wanted to see if it could aid me in sticking with my program and keeping records. Starting this week I’ve got four apps I’m using to keep daily records. I’ll be blogging about the pros and cons of this approach.
  3. I want to create my own personal health record in a PHR that becomes my information hub. I’ve got accounts with both HealthVault and Google Health and will blog about which I think is most useful.
  4. I want to augment my PHR with my own database and information flow related to what my history and my data gathering suggests. I’ve gotta know about my cholesterol and about Alzheimer’s, the disease that strikes fear in my heart because my dad had it. I’m going to try to find useful tools to pull resources together from the crazy mish-mash of internet information. I want to keep it dynamic with things like Google Alerts and maybe social groups.

So that’s the plan. I’ll be sharing my experience, and hope others will share theirs with me.


Full metabolism model. How exciting!

metabolic pathways 1Science published a study today by the Burnham Institute at UC San Diego, The Scripps Institute, and the Novartis Genomics Institute reporting that they have for the first time modeled the central metabolic pathway system of a bacterium, complete with 3-D, atomic resolution overlays of the involved proteins. Exciting, no?

On the Burnham website they say:

Combining biochemical studies, structural genomics and computer modeling, the researchers deciphered the shapes, functions and interactions of 478 proteins that make up T. maritima’s central metabolism. The team also found connections between these proteins and 503 unique metabolites in 562 intracellular and 83 extracellular metabolic reactions.

“We have built an actual three dimensional model of every protein in the central metabolic system,” said Adam Godzik, Ph.D., director of Burnham’s Bioinformatics and Systems Biology program. “We got the whole thing. This is analogous to sequencing an entire genome.”

Here’s a link to a little video on Vimeo about the project.

Developing a solid computer model of any living thing — even a bacterium — is an important step. Computer modeling of airplanes, electronic components, architectural projects and many other things have enabled huge strides in understanding and efficiently designing many things we use today. But the innards of any living thing have been so complex that full modeling has been pretty much beyond reach. What’s exciting about this accomplishment is the prospect of scaling up to model cells, organisms, and even ecosystems. If computer models of cells and organisms prove to be as useful as modeling in other areas has, then this is a bit like putting a rocket engine behind bio-medical research.


Oops! I just went on a spending spree

Hey President Obama, I’m doing my part to restore the economy!

This morning I saw an article on CNET News about a book coming out tomorrow titled Total Recall, by Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell. They’ve been doing research at Microsoft for years about what it would be like to record everything in your life everyday and keep it in a big database. I tend to use the term “life-caching” for this and it’s a topic I’m interested in. I think it has big implications for areas like Health 2.0 and EHR (electronic health records).

I’m here to confess that Amazon’s “Other people who bought this book also bought…” is a gimmick that works on me. I saw Complexity: A Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell. I’ve been interested in chaos and complexity — sort of two sides of the same coin — since James Gleick’s Chaos: Making a New Science way back in 1987. I haven’t read anything new in quite awhile, but Complexity has chapters on its application to information theory and biology. I couldn’t resist.

Then I went crazy because the other folks who bought Complexity also bought Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell by Dennis Bray. It’s also about biological processes and their relation to information and computation. And finally my buddies who bought Wetware also bought The Machinery of Life by David Goodsell. Naturally, so did I.

Stop me before I spend again!! Well, at least I get free shipping.


Eye sensors might contribute to health awareness

There’s an article from the IEEE Spectrum about how engineers at the University of Washington are in the early stages of making contact lenses that might eventually project “enhanced reality” onto our visual field. The idea is to overlay what we see out in the world with data or supplemental information. The usual example is the data that the Terminator (that’s Governor Terminator these days) could see when he was calculating how to blow a bunch of people away in the movies.

Research model of visual  augmentation lens

Research model of visual augmentation lens

Envisioned uses with less of a sci-fi bent include enabling pictures, graphs, and navigation cues to be in our field of vision. Think also about advertising and video games. The current devices are pretty crude (sort of optometry from Hell), but rapid advances are expected with semi-transparent circuits and LEDs.

But what I find most interesting is a use that appears to be secondary at this point: building sensors into the lenses to track biomarkers. In other words, contact lenses could be part of a body monitoring system. Babak Parviz, the article’s author and nanobiotechnology expert at U Washington, says:

Besides visual enhancement, noninvasive monitoring of the wearer’s biomarkers and health indicators could be a huge future market. We’ve built several simple sensors that can detect the concentration of a molecule, such as glucose. Sensors built onto lenses would let diabetic wearers keep tabs on blood-sugar levels without needing to prick a finger.

Since our ordinary senses aren’t much good at judging the level things in our blood like glucose, we’re forced to extract blood and test it to learn many things. But suppose our senses could be augmented with engineered devices? Perhaps we could have much more comprehensive, real-time information about a variety of health factors. Would that not give us a more integrated and perhaps fairly natural “sense” about what’s really going on both in the present and over time? Seems like it would be a huge aid to living with diabetes and keeping an eye on other conditions.

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