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MySense – helping people stay safe for longer at home



Seven years ago, the renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking warned that the creation of artificial intelligence would be “either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity.”

He was speaking at the opening of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, a multi-disciplinary institute within Cambridge University dedicated to studying artificial intelligence – now universally known simply as AI.

Despite fears in some circles around the rise of AI, its development has moved on apace. From medicine to manufacturing, education, science, transportation, customer service, agriculture, entertainment, retail, surveillance, finance, and the military, the technology has quickly become a part of everyday life.

Not surprisingly, it’s also a driving force behind pioneering new ideas and inventions, one of which is helping oversee people living with dementia and other neurological conditions.

MySense is a high-level monitoring system developed in the UK that uses AI algorithmic intelligence to keep a check on vulnerable patients, identify preventative solutions, and prioritise the human touch when it’s needed, cutting down on hospital visits and allowing people to live at home for longer.

The data collected builds a digital portrait of the patient and in some cases can even recognise the warning signals for a potential illness, alerting care givers weeks in advance.

Clinical evaluation at two NHS trusts has shown MySense is already having a positive impact in cutting unplanned hospital admissions, freeing up beds, and saving money.

South Warkwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, for instance, recorded a 46% reduction in unplanned hospital admissions for patients in its area using MySense.

MySense founder and group CPO, Lucie Glenday

Meanwhile, University Hospitals North Midlands NHS Trust, which has used MySense to work with a cohort of high-intensity and frail elderly patients, recorded consistent monthly reductions of between 40%-50% over an eight-month period compared to admissions for the same users before the product was used in their care.

This equated to an average cost reduction per patient of £16,458 per year.

They’re impressive figures. But for many, there may be the thorny issue that whilst MySense offers the chance to get in front of a range of health problems, alongside giving valuable reassurance and peace of mind to users, their families, and caregivers, at its heart it is reliant on AI to build up a picture of the patient.

Eight sensors are installed in specific locations around the home. One is a wearable heart monitor, whilst another is a sleep belt that goes on the bed. But the others are used to detect movement and activities around the house, such as the bathroom, kitchen, and front door.

This sensor technology picks up around 20,000 data points per day per person to create a personalised insight.

Multiple layers of algorithms and AI process that information to build up a picture of an individual’s activities and health. Environmental and contextual attributes are then applied that overlay disease models and can predict health decline and deterioration.

What MySense essentially does is build a picture of what is ‘normal’ for each user to live independently in their own home. Variations in the data from the sensors could then be a warning signal that not all is well.

Self-confessed data geek and MySense founder and group CPO, Lucie Glenday, whose early career included working on the Government Digital Services team which created, is the first to admit that she shares some of the current worries being aired about the possible risks our overreliance on AI could pose.

She told Agetech World: “I have very strong feelings myself around the way that AI models are trained, the ethical nature of that training, and the transparency of the decision-making. I think all of those things are really big questions that need to be answered.”

But Ms Glenday, who set up MySense in 2016 to help people with neurological disorders like dementia, Parkinson’s, and motor neurone disease, live better lives, added: “We’re a B-Corp (companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability), so we take our ethical responsibilities really, really, seriously. This is not something that is in response to all this damaging stuff in the press.

“This is something that we have built into the business that is at the very core. It is really important.”

She explained that because of the complexity of the problem that MySense needs to solve, it runs multiple machine-learning algorithms.

“The reason we use the sensors is because we get those consistent data points coming in day in and day out to be able to build the models off.

“We have to have good data coming in, and ethically acquired data.

“So, we have all of this data, how do we process, understand and analyse it in a way that doesn’t mean that we have this black box and a machine making decisions that it’s not qualified to make?

“We put some guard rails in place. You say that all machine learning has to be supervised for a production environment, so every single decision that is made has to have supervision in it so that we can absolutely go back and audit every decision an AI machine has made.

“We do use some deep learning methodology, but it’s only in research. It is literally looking at some of the medical data out there and understanding those patterns.”

Transparency and audibility are critical, she said, making sure the training is undertaken on ethically acquired data, and that there is proper oversight “to make sure we are not running roughshod over this stuff.”

MySense is a very personal venture for Ms Glenday. Her sister, Olivia, was just 23 when she died from a rare form of MND in December 2006.

Hence her interest in helping people with neurological disorders to live better, independent lives in their own homes.

Ms Glenday believes MySense is unique.

She said: “There is an awful lot out there in the market that is part of the digital switchover that uses sensors around the home and talks about AI. But we have never put ourselves in that box. We have not played in the telecare space. That is not the environment that we have built the product for.

“It is probably going to sound a bit arrogant but yes, I believe we are unique because we have looked at this purely as a data problem.

“I do not believe there is any other organisation out there right now with 352 metrics on an individual on a daily basis that can track and manage someone’s independence and health to the level that we can.

“It may well be that there is a whole cohort of people out there that say ‘Oh well, I don’t need all of that information. I just need to know that somebody is alive and that they are not on the floor.’ And that is absolutely fine. I have to say there are lots of great products out there to solve that problem.

“But I genuinely believe with overstretched health provision across the world, not just here in the UK, more and more focus is going to be about supporting people to live with long-term and chronic conditions at home, and we are going to need to overcome that challenge as a society over the next few years. I believe we are positioned perfectly to take that opportunity on.”

The vast amounts of information collected by MySense allow for better early diagnosis of a range of problems. Ms Glenday said: “A great example of this is UTIs (urinary tract infection). For the most part, people are picking them up between a week to two weeks in advance of a UTI requiring somebody to be blue-lighted into hospital.

“This is because we are seeing the patterns. We are seeing the behaviours, we are seeing the reduction in mobility, we are seeing the poor sleep patterns, we are seeing the escalation in heart rate, we are seeing a reduction in the number of times going to the kitchen to stay hydrated, we are seeing a decrease or increase in respiratory rate overnight.

“All of these factors show the early indications really early on so that people can intervene and say, ‘OK, we think we’ve got a problem.’ I think that is why we have achieved the results we have.

“It means that people can get ahead and hopefully either put the additional support around or treat at home so there is no requirement to go into hospital.”

MySense is not a medical device, however, although Ms Glenday has high hopes it will get such accreditation in the next year. “All we do at this point in time is deliver what we see. We are not triaging, we are not saying we have picked up an early diagnosis of dementia. What we are saying is, look at all these different factors that would help a clinical team on the ground get to that decision much quicker than they would without that line of sight.

“That is the really important part of what we do; telling that story so that it is easier for the clinical teams to make a clinical decision about future care for this individual.”

Ms Glenday’s hope is that in the near future, enough behaviour information will have been gathered for MySense to begin to fundamentally understand what is going to happen and build care tailored better to each patient.

“We are really excited for the next phase as we start to build our predictive models around specific diseases.

“So, we are going to be looking at Parkinson’s and diabetes and of course, a cause close to my heart, MND, and start building our predictive models against those specific conditions.

“Hopefully, that will mean that we get to work with those cohorts.

“I would love to be able to go and sit down with someone who has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and say ‘We are going to help you manage this.’

“That would just be an extraordinary thing for us as a business to be able to achieve. That is what is making me really excited.”


Tai chi outperforms conventional exercise for seniors



New findings from 12 studies involving 2,901 participants have demonstrated that tai chi outperforms conventional exercise in improving mobility and balance in seniors.

While tai chi is understood to be beneficial for functional mobility and balance in older adults, such benefits are not well understood due to large variance in research study protocols and observations.

This new review and analysis has now shown that tai chi can induce greater improvement in functional mobility and balance in relatively healthy older adults compared to conventional exercise.

The findings showed the following performance results:

  • The time to complete 50-foot walking was 1.84 seconds faster. 
  • The time to maintain a one-leg stance was 6 seconds longer when eyes were open and 1.65 seconds longer when eyes were closed. 
  • Individuals improved their timed-up-and-go test performance by 0.18 points, indicating quicker standing, walking, and sitting.
  • Individuals taking the functional reach test showed significant improvement with a standardised mean difference of 0.7, suggesting a noteworthy positive impact on the ability to reach and perform daily activities.

Secondary analyses revealed that the use of tai chi with relatively short duration of less than 20 weeks, low total time of less than 24 total hours, and/or focusing on the Yang-style of this ancient form of Chinese martial arts were particularly beneficial for functional mobility and balance as compared to conventional exercise.

“This systematic literature review and meta-analysis are exciting because they provide strong evidence that tai chi is a more efficient strategy to improve functional mobility and balance in relatively healthy older adults, as compared to conventional exercise,” said Brad Manor, Ph.D., director of the Mobility and Falls Program at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, and associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“This research suggests that tai chi should be carefully considered in future studies and routines of rehabilitative programs for balance and mobility in older adults,” said Bao Dapeng, professor at Beijing Sport University.

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New standards for biomarkers of ageing



A paper has put forward a new framework for standardising the development and validation of biomarkers of ageing to better predict longevity and quality of life.

Led by Harvard researchers, the team has zeroed in on biomarkers of ageing using omic data from population-based studies. 

The team included ageing and longevity expert Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, founder and CEO of AI-driven drug discovery company Insilico Medicine, and the findings appeared in Nature Medicine

Ageing is associated with a number of biological changes including increased molecular and cellular damage, however, researchers do not yet have a standardised means to evaluate and validate biomarkers related to ageing. 

In order to create those standards as well as actionable clinical tools, the team analysed population-based cohort studies built on omic data (data related to biological molecules which can include proteomics, transcriptomics, genomics, and epigenomics) of blood-based biomarkers of ageing. The researchers then compared the predictive strength of different biomarkers, including study design and data collection approaches, and looked at how these biomarkers presented in different populations. 

In order to better assess the impact of ageing using biomarkers, the researchers found that clinicians needed to expand their focus to consider not only mortality as an outcome, but also how biomarkers of aging are associated with numerous other health outcomes, including functional decline, frailty, chronic disease, and disability. They also call for the standardisation of omic data to improve reliability. 

“Omics and biomarkers harmonisation efforts, such as the Biolearn project, are instrumental in validation of biomarkers of aging” said co-first author Mahdi Moqri, PhD, of the Division of Genetics. 

Biolearn is an open-source project for biomarkers of aging and is helping to harmonise existing ageing biomarkers, unify public datasets, and provide computational methodologies.

The team also emphasised the importance of continued collaborations among research groups on “large-scale, longitudinal studies that can track long-term physiological changes and responses to therapeutics in diverse populations”, and that further work is required to understand how implementation of biomarker evaluation in clinical trials might improve patient quality of life and survival.

“If we hope to have clinical trials for interventions that extend healthy lifespan in humans, we need reliable, validated biomarkers of ageing,” said co-first author Jesse Poganik, PhD, of the Division of Genetics. 

“We hope that our framework will help prioritise the most promising biomarkers and provide health care providers with clinically valuable and actionable tools.”

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Healthy aging research to receive $115 million



Global non-profit Hevolution Foundation has announced $115 million in funding that makes up 49 new awards under its Geroscience Research Opportunities (HF-GRO) programme.  

As part of Hevolution’s mission to catalyse the healthspan scientific ecosystem and drive transformative breakthroughs in healthy aging, HF-GRO is funding promising pre-clinical research in aging biology and geroscience. 

Through this first wave of HF-GRO awards, Hevolution will invest up to $115 million in this first cohort of 49 selected projects over the next five years. Its second call for proposals under HF-GRO will be announced later this year, offering an additional $115 million to address the significant funding gaps in aging research.  

Dr. Felipe Sierra, Hevolution’s Chief Scientific Officer stated: “These 49 important research projects represent a significant step forward in deepening our understanding of healthy aging. Hevolution’s prime objective is to mobilise greater investment around uncovering the foundational mechanisms behind biological aging. 

“We are steadfast in our belief that by examining the root causes of aging, rather than solely focusing on its associated diseases, we can usher in a brighter future for humanity.” 

HF-GRO awardees include researchers at prestigious institutions across the United States, Canada, and Europe, including the U.S. National Institute on Aging, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Buck Institute, the Mayo Clinic, New York University, and the University of California San Francisco, among many others. 

The American Federation for Aging Research is providing programmatic support for the HF-GRO program, with grantees selected through a rigorous two-stage peer-review process involving 100 experts in aging biology and geroscience. 

Dr Berenice Benayoun, an HF-GRO grant recipient at the University of Southern California, stated: “I am extremely honored and excited that Hevolution selected our project for funding. This is a project close to my heart, which aims at understanding why and how the female and male innate immune aging differs. 

“This funding will support us as we start laying the foundation for a lasting improvement of women’s health throughout aging.” 

To date, Hevolution has committed approximately $250 million to transform the healthy aging sector, including the $40 million for specialised research and development in healthspan science recently announced at Hevolution’s Global Healthspan Summit. 

Hevolution is ramping up its investments to enable healthier aging for all and is now the second largest funder of aging biology research worldwide.  

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