Health Life

A computer model that predicts the disease’s next move

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A computational model now in development could give a Michigan hospital and its care providers a leg up on COVID-19 by predicting which patients are likely to quickly deteriorate upon admission. Once implemented, the model could help the hospital anticipate fast-changing patient needs while keeping care providers safe.

Called M-CURES and developed by a team of computer science, industrial operations and engineering and health care researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, Precision Health and Michigan Medicine, the model uses a machine learning algorithm to crunch more than 200 health and demographic variables of individual COVID-19 patients. The researchers have found that some of the most predictive variables include age, underlying health conditions and current medications. The model then outputs a numerical score, updated every four hours, that predicts the patient’s likelihood of requiring ICU-level care. Preliminary validation of M-CURES has shown it to be effective in predicting the progression of the disease.

“M-CURES could help the hospital get better answers to questions like who is likely to need ICU care and how many ICU beds it will need within a given time frame,” said Jenna Wiens, an associate professor of computer science at engineering and co-director of Precision Health at U-M. “It could also help the families of severely ill COVID patients by giving them more time to evaluate treatment options.”

Michael Sjoding, an assistant professor at Michigan Medicine who is working with Wiens on M-CURES, says M-CURES could also be an important way to manage the complexities of treating a highly contagious disease. Donning protective gear and carefully monitoring the number of in a room takes up valuable time in an emergency, and he says M-CURES could help care providers better anticipate patient needs and prevent emergencies before they start.

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3 key research highlights from NIH’s diabetes branch

Can taking a daily vitamin D supplement prevent diabetes? Which is better for lowering your risk of diabetes: lifestyle changes or just medication? Is diabetes harder to treat if you’re under age 20?

Recent national studies funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) have shed some light on these questions. Christine Lee, M.D., M.S., who helps oversee diabetes research at NIDDK, explains what you should know.

Taking vitamin D fails to prevent type 2 diabetes in adults

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of bone. It may also play a role in your nerve, muscle, and immune systems. Some studies had reported that low levels of vitamin D were associated with a higher risk for diabetes. But a new national study of more than 2,400 adults at high risk for diabetes, funded by NIDDK, found no added protection from taking the vitamin in preventing type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle changes are best for preventing type 2 diabetes

A landmark national NIDDK-sponsored trial, the Diabetes Prevention Program, found that making lifestyle changes to lose some weight and become more active does a better job of reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes for adults at high risk for the disease than just taking the medication metformin.

Type 2 diabetes is increasing, especially among young adults of minority racial and ethnic groups. 

Compared with study participants who took a placebo (a pill without medicine), the lifestyle group reduced their risk by nearly 60%, while those taking metformin reduced their risk by only 30%. Adults age 60 and older saw even greater benefit, a 71% drop in risk. More recently, the study found that the adults who made lifestyle changes lost more weight in the short term, although taking metformin seemed