Chopra, Tanzi: Devices Will Reduce Disease, Alter Medicine

February 01, 2016

LAS VEGAS — Personal electronic devices that spot early signs of disease, monitor and encourage fitness, and lower stress can help people reprogram their DNA for a healthier life, celebrity physicians said here at the Consumer Technology Association 2016 Digital Health Summit.

Deepak Chopra, MD, said a revolution is taking place in medicine; genomics, lifestyle, and the environmental technology is converging to create ways to more accurately target and treat disease.

Dr Chopra touted technology for immersive virtual reality that reduces stress. "Instead of taking a pill," he said, "you can go and get a session in the virtual-reality realm, and come back with low blood pressure, more relaxed arteries, and less plaque in your brain."

Dr Chopra has some skin in the game when it comes to stress-relieving gadgets. Several years ago, he introduced Dream Weaver, which feeds high-frequency light through special glasses and sound into the wearer's brain in tandem with meditation exercises, some narrated by Dr Chopra. It works wirelessly on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

"It takes you into a forest or into space or whatever," he said. "It'll change your brain waves within 10 minutes, put you in a dream state, even the sleep state," Dr Chopra explained.

"We're electromagnetic beings," added Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the genetics and aging research unit of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"Basically, good habits lead to good gene programs, bad habits lead to bad gene programs," Dr Tanzi said during the joint presentation. And if people are anything like lab mice, they might be able to pass epigenetic modifications to their offspring.

Self-Programming and the Microbiome

This task of self-programming goes beyond the human genome to encompass the human microbiome and its gazillion microbial genes, Dr Chopra explained. But the human ecosystem is even more than that.

"All these years, we've been talking on the level of molecular biology," he pointed out. "I think we need to move beyond to understand the body as an energy field, as an information field and, dare I say, a consciousness field."

The presentation by Dr Chopra and Dr Tanzi was not their first collaboration. The pair coauthored the book Super Brain in 2013, which purports to show people how they can unleash "the explosive power of your mind to maximize health, happiness, and spiritual well-being." And late last year, the pair released a book on epigenetics, entitled Super Genes. Its basic message is that people can't control what genes they're born with, but they can chemically modify gene expression through lifestyle choices and enjoy a longer, healthier life. Good diet, plenty of exercise and sleep, and stress reduction are key levers for turning genes off, on, up, and down, they assert.

So what do epigenetics have to do with the Fitbits, calorie-counting utensils, and a handheld device for remote physical exams exhibited at the Digital Health Summit? For one thing, Dr Tanzi said, electronic gadgets can prompt people to make good lifestyle choices, "like my watch telling me to stand up every hour or yelling at me when I don't exercise."

Aside from counting steps and measuring heart rate, consumer electronic devices can detect biomarkers for diseases in their early stage, when they are more amenable to treatment, he said.

Precision medicine is not complete when you just say, 'right patient, right drug.' It has to be, 'right patient, right drug, right time.'

"In Alzheimer's, plaque is building up in the brain 15 years before," said Dr Tanzi. "That's when you have to hit it. Precision medicine is not complete when you just say, 'right patient, right drug.' It has to be, 'right patient, right drug, right time.'

"We need to learn all of the different telltale signs of when someone's getting in trouble for various diseases. With the types of products we're seeing here in digital health, that's possible for the first time," he explained.

Dr Tanzi could have been referring to consumer breath analyzers on display from a company called Breathometer. One device, Breeze, measures blood alcohol content; another, Mint, assesses oral health by measuring sulfuric compounds associated with halitosis and hydration.

In fact, a single device that can detect and analyze roughly 60 clinical biomarkers in human breath for conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and even lung cancer is envisioned by Charles Yim, chief executive officer of Breathometer.

"Imagine if you had a super nose," Yim said. "You'd instantly know the metrics of your body."

"I predict that just like you can look at sugar levels or cortisol levels through saliva, and sometimes through skin, we'll be looking at proteins, correlating them with gene expression," said Dr Chopra.

It isn't possible today, but "I see that totally within the realm of possibility," he added.

Consumer Technology Association (CES) 2016 Digital Health Summit. Presented January 7, 2016.


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