Open source medicine puts health above profits - PC Advisor 2012-05-01


“Open source is powering a revolution in medicine and health care in multiple ways. Open source software and methods make large-scale collaborative research projects feasible, multiplying the brainpower applied to a project, expanding the data pool, and creating transparency and accountability. This is a huge win for the advancement of new treatments and cures, and cutting the costs of research. Open source practice and records software cut the costs of running medical practices, and puts practitioners in charge instead of software vendors. This is a marked contrast to the traditional secretive, highly-competitive methods of research and medical product development. It's expensive to bring new drugs and devices to market. Research and testing can take years, and FDA approval is expensive, bureaucratic, and time-consuming. But keeping everything in-house promises big profits for the winners. So the old ways persist, but at a high cost to people who can't afford expensive patented treatments, in side effects and defects that are not discovered until after a new medicine or device is released into the market, and in entire categories of diseases that are not studied because the profit potential isn't big enough... The University of Washington Biorobotics Lab and the University of California, Santa Cruz Human Bionics Laboratory are jointly developing Raven the Surgical Robot. Raven is an amazing machine that provides a 3D real-time view inside the human body, performs surgical procedures, and operates remotely over a computer network. Raven uses a high-speed graphics processor, similar to the graphics processors in computer gaming systems, to stream a continual series of ultrasound images. The original Raven came out in 2005. Raven II was released early this year (2012) in a smaller, more dextrous version. Seven models were built and sent to seven different biorobotics labs (University of Washington, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, Johns Hopkins, University of Nebraska, and Harvard) for collaborative study and development, including networked experiments over the Internet. Raven runs on a real-time Linux kernel and the Robot Operating System, and is designed to provide a common platform for collaborative research in robot assisted surgery... Before Raven, surgery robots were very expensive and proprietary, and impossible to modify or build research on. The open Raven platform should result in significant progress. This YouTube video gives a brief demonstration of Raven II in action. To learn more, geek out to your heart's content on the papers linked on the Raven project page, and check out the feast of videos. Want to be a citizen scientist? Join a study? Organize a study? Probe your own genome for health risks, learn surprising facts about your ancestry, and share your findings with other citizen scientists? Thanks to DIYgenomics you can. Some of the currently running studies are "Aging #1: Telomere length and telomerase activation therapy", "Aging #2: Risk reduction for common aging conditions through monitoring and intervention", "MTHFR / Vitamin B deficiency and linkage with homocysteine levels", and "Knowledge generation through self-experimentation". The various studies rely on open source-based services such as Google Docs and Genomera, which provides a free platform for hosting open health studies... DIY citizen science will not replace clinical trials or scientific research, but it could contribute useful data. It's not a new concept; for example archeology, paleontology, and astronomy all have a tradition of incorporating amateur contributions. The founder of DIYgenomics, Melanie Swan, researched how these citizen studies need to be conducted so that they will be taken seriously by scientists, and be published in scientific journals. Her paper Crowdsourced Health Research Studies: An Important Emerging Complement to Clinical Trials in the Public Health Research Ecosystem goes into detail on the value of citizen science. Tropical diseases take a big toll in illness and death every year, but commercial medicine is not very interested in them because the profit potential is so low; the people affected by them are mainly in poor countries. About 1% of newly-developed drugs are for tropical diseases, but malaria, respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, and tuberculosis are leading killers in lower-income tropical and sub-tropical countries. Open Source Drug Discovery for Malaria, OSDD, was launched in 2011 as a worldwide hub for malaria drug research. The first participants were the Todd Research Group at the University of Sydney and the Medicines for Malaria Venture. The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) is a global organization with partnerships with universities, research labs, and pharmaceutical companies. OSDD makes good use of open source technologies: Twitter, Google+, MediaWiki, and The Synaptic Leap, which hosts a number of open source biomedical research communities, is built with the Drupal content management system. Dr. Matthew Todd, head of the Todd Research Group, already has a major op



08/16/2012, 06:08

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Date tagged:

05/01/2012, 15:07

Date published:

04/25/2012, 17:09