Healthcare news monthly: July highlights

August 11, 2023

As we dive into the heart of 2023, the healthcare landscape in the United Kingdom continues to evolve with innovative breakthroughs and impactful initiatives. From advancements in medical AI to an increase in wearable technology, July has brought several noteworthy healthcare developments across the UK.

In recent months, artificial intelligence (AI) has gained global prominence. AI systems like ChatGPT have captivated the public with their human-like text and art generation. However, AI’s impact goes beyond creativity, reshaping drug discovery, a critical field. Boston Consulting Group’s data reveals over 150 drugs in discovery and 15 in clinical trials, all thanks to AI. AI’s transformative potential in drug discovery spans target identification, simulations, property predictions, de novo drug design, prioritization, and synthesis pathways. Investor interest mirrors this potential, yet intellectual property, safety, and ethical challenges persist. As AI transforms drug discovery, legal and policy sectors must prepare for its potential while managing complexities.

Patient-led start-up Visible has collaborated with researchers at Imperial College London to launch app-based health studies. The Visible app, launched in November 2022, has been used by over 30,000 people with Long COVID or myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) to identify illness patterns and manage symptoms. Now, in partnership with Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine, the app hosts two new research studies to understand the impact of Long COVID and ME/CFS. The studies focus on the relationship between the menstrual cycle and Long COVID symptoms, led by Dr Viki Male, and the economic impact of Long COVID, led by Christian Morgenstern. With Long COVID’s global prevalence and debilitating effects, Visible’s patient-led approach offers a valuable opportunity for research and awareness.

Stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease involves using undifferentiated stem cells to replace or repair damaged brain cells linked to the condition. Administered through intravenous injection, stem cells target areas of inflammation and damage, aiming to reduce neuroinflammation and modulate the immune system. This therapy seeks to prevent disease progression by immune modulation while restoring normal function to dopamine-producing brain cells lost in Parkinson’s, improving motor symptoms. Research, including clinical trials, indicates the safety and potential benefits of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from sources like bone marrow and adipose tissue in enhancing motor function and alleviating Parkinson’s symptoms. These findings suggest stem cell therapy’s promise as a new avenue for treating Parkinson’s disease.

Digital health has emerged as a transformative force in healthcare, encompassing technologies like health apps, telehealth, and wearables that aim to enhance patient outcomes and proactive healthcare. Wearable technology, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, and biosensors, has become integral in monitoring health data and providing insights. While these advancements bring numerous benefits, challenges, including data privacy, accuracy, user engagement, and equitable access must be addressed for responsible implementation. By striking a balance between innovation and ethical considerations, digital health and wearable technology can empower individuals, foster early detection, and revolutionise preventive healthcare.

The healthcare landscape in the UK during July 2023 has been characterized by transformative advancements. From potential Parkinson’s treatments to app-based health studies, these developments reflect a commitment to improving patient care, leveraging technology, and addressing evolving health challenges. As we look ahead, these innovative strides pave the way for a more accessible, efficient, and patient-centred healthcare system in the United Kingdom.