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This High School Student Has Created a Device to Help Parkinson's Patients

When Utkarsh Tandon was 10 years old, he saw a YouTube video of Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch. The tremors of the former heavyweight champion sparked his curiosity, and soon, Tandon was reading about Parkinson’s disease. The wheels in his head were already turning on how he could help those who suffered from it.

Fast forward to a few years later when Tandon was in a computer science class, studying machine learning. While researching, he stumbled upon a study in which a phone was secured to the hands of Parkinson’s patients and used to assess their tremors. With that, Tandon was on his way to creating OneRing—a 3-D printed wearable device that was just funded (twice over) on Kickstarter.

Named for the prized ring in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, OneRing goes on a patient’s finger and monitors their movements throughout the day. It categorizes those movements based on severity into three categories: dyskinesia, bradykinesia, and tremor. The time-stamped data then appears on an iOS app in the form of a daily report, helping patients and doctors best determine a course of treatment.

The plastic ring contains a box on top that holds a Bluetooth microchip, not unlike other wearable devices like the Fitbit. And like other wearable devices, Tandon is still working on making the design a little more fashion-friendly. He told FastCoDesign: "It has to be something people want to wear. I want to make it look good while it's doing the diagnosis in the background."

OneRing actually started as a 2014 science fair project when Tandon was a high school freshman. He created a machine learning model that did essentially what the product does today—gathers and classifies information on Parkinson’s patients. He won, and received a grant from the UCLA Brain Research Institute, which propelled the development.

Check out OneRing and hear Tandon explain the device in the video above.

[h/t FastCoDesign]

Images via Kickstarter.

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Health
New Test Can Differentiate Between Tick-borne Illnesses
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Time is of the essence in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Fortunately, one new test may be able to help. A report on the test was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Ticks and the diseases they carry are on the rise. One 2016 study found deer ticks—the species that carries Lyme disease—in more than half of the counties in the United States.

The two most common tick-borne illnesses in the U.S. are Lyme disease and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Although their initial symptoms can be the same, they’re caused by different pathogens; Lyme disease comes from infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. We don’t know what causes STARI.

"It is extremely important to be able to tell a patient they have Lyme disease as early as possible so they can be treated as quickly as possible," microbiologist and first author Claudia Molins of the CDC said in a statement. "Most Lyme disease infections are successfully treated with a two- to three-week course of oral antibiotics." Infections that aren't treated can lead to fevers, facial paralysis, heart palpitations, nerve pain, arthritis, short-term memory loss, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

But to date, scientists have yet to create an accurate, consistent early test for Lyme disease, which means people must often wait until they’re very ill. And it’s hard to test for the STARI pathogen when we don’t know what it is.

One team of researchers led by experts at Colorado State University was determined to find a better way. They realized that, rather than looking for pathogens, they could look at the way a person’s body responded to the pathogens.

They analyzed blood samples from patients with both early-stage Lyme disease and STARI. Their results showed that while all patients’ immune systems had mounted a response, the nature of that response was different.

"We have found that all of these infections and diseases are associated with an inflammatory response, but the alteration of the immune response, and the metabolic profiles aren't all the same," senior author John Belisle of CSU said.

Two distinct profiles emerged. The team had found physical evidence, or biomarkers, for each illness: a way to tell one disease from another.

Belisle notes that there’s still plenty of work to do.

"The focus of our efforts is to develop a test that has a much greater sensitivity, and maintains that same level of specificity," Belisle said. "We don't want people to receive unnecessary treatment if they don't have Lyme disease, but we want to identify those who have the disease as quickly as possible."

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Google Can Warn You When Your Allergies Are About to Go Haywire
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How much allergy medication are you going to need today? Google can tell you. Well, it can give you a forecast, at least, as The Verge reports.

Google announced on August 16 that the search engine will now auto-populate search results for pollen and allergy information with allergy forecasts from The Weather Channel. The integration will include the most recent pollen index and allergy forecast data, showing a 5-day forecast detailing whether you’re likely to feel seasonal allergy symptoms throughout the week.

An animation shows a scroll of Google’s search results for pollen with allergy forecasts.
Google

If you have the Google app, you can set it to send push notifications when the pollen count is notably high that day, so you know to sequester yourself safely indoors. Hopefully you don't live in a city like Jackson, Mississippi, which in 2016 was named the worst city in the U.S. for allergy sufferers. There, your phone may be pinging every day.

While you can already find this information on sites like Pollen.com, having it show up immediately in search results saves you a few extra clicks, and frankly, it’s far more readable than most allergy and weather forecast sites.

Too bad a search engine can't cure our sneezes and watery eyes, though. Time to stock up on Kleenex, get a jumbo bottle of allergy meds, and maybe buy yourself a robot vacuum.

[h/t The Verge]

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