Health Life

Local COVID-19 forecasts by AI

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Despite efforts throughout the United States last spring to suppress the spread of the novel coronavirus, states across the country have experienced spikes in the past several weeks. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nation has climbed to more than 3.5 million since the start of the pandemic.

Public officials in many states, including California, have now started to roll back the reopening process to help curb the spread of the virus. Eventually, state and local policymakers will be faced with deciding for a second time when and how to reopen their communities. A pair of researchers in UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering, Xifeng Yan and Yu-Xiang Wang, have developed a novel forecasting , inspired by artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, to provide timely information at a more localized level that officials and anyone in the public can use in their decision-making processes.

“We are all overwhelmed by the data, most of which is provided at national and state levels,” said Yan, an associate professor who holds the Venkatesh Narayanamurti Chair in Computer Science. “Parents are more interested in what is happening in their school district and if it’s safe for their kids to go to school in the fall. However, there are very few websites providing that information. We aim to provide forecasting and explanations at a localized level with data that is more useful for residents and decision makers.”

The forecasting project, “Interventional COVID-19 Response Forecasting in Local Communities Using Neural Domain Adaption Models,” received a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant for nearly $200,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“The challenges of making sense of messy data are precisely the type of problems that we deal with every day as computer scientists working in AI and machine learning,” said Wang,

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Carrie Ann Inaba doesn’t let Sjögren’s syndrome stand in her way

Carrie Ann Inaba is a familiar face in millions of American homes. A lifelong dancer, she has become well-known as a judge on ABC’s competition show “Dancing with the Stars.” Last year, she became co-host of the CBS daytime talk show “The Talk.”

Outside of her on-camera career, Inaba is a self-described warrior for those with Sjögren’s syndrome, a difficult and often painful autoimmune disease she has herself. As an Awareness Ambassador for the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, she spreads hope and comfort to others with the condition. In this exclusive interview, she describes how meditation, yoga, and a sense of community have helped her thrive despite her diagnosis.

Tell us about your diagnosis.

Like with many autoimmune diseases, my Sjögren’s diagnosis was not easy to come by. I remember telling my doctor that my eyes had been dry for years. I asked him if I had Sjögren’s and he said I didn’t. It wasn’t until many years later that I was diagnosed by a rheumatologist [a doctor who treats musculoskeletal disease and autoimmune conditions]. And that’s because I was going through a lot of pain and fatigue. Getting the diagnosis was overwhelming and I went through a period of depression and anxiety. That was probably because I was not diagnosed for so long.

You have other autoimmune diseases as well.

Yes. Sjögren’s and other autoimmune conditions often come in pairs. I also have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. And just last year I found out that I also had lupus. I only found that out when I went in for a colonoscopy and I read it in my medical notes. 

How do you cope with your conditions and lead such a busy life?

“Sjögren’s has made me stand up and set limits and boundaries so I can take care of myself.”

Health Life

Augmented reality tool shown to help surgeons remotely guide first responders in battlefield-like scenarios

In a smoke-filled room, a first responder receives instructions from a surgeon through an augmented reality headset to perform an operation. Credit: Purdue University photo/Edgar Rojas Muñoz

War zones can be too far from operating rooms, preventing soldiers from receiving the surgery they need fast enough.

A Purdue University-led study is the first to show medics successfully performing surgery in life-like simulations of these war zones by receiving guidance from surgeons through an augmented reality headset. The work is joint with Purdue’s School of Industrial Engineering and the Department of Computer Science.

The headset transmits a recorded view of the operating site to the surgeon, who can then use a large-display touch screen to mark up the recording with drawings of how to complete the . Augmented reality helps the first responder see the surgeon’s annotated instructions directly on their view of the operating field.

Researchers at Purdue and the Indiana University School of Medicine have been developing this technology, called System for Telementoring with Augmented Reality (STAR), since 2015.

Operating rooms across the U.S. have already started using augmented reality telementoring to virtually bring in the expertise of other surgeons on how to use a new instrument or better perform a particular procedure.

But this technology hasn’t made it to “austere” settings, such as a battlefield or forest thousands of miles away from a hospital, where a first responder could be treating injuries far too complex for their level of expertise, said Juan Wachs, Purdue University’s James A. and Sharon M. Tompkins Rising Star Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering.

“Augmented reality telementoring doesn’t usually operate well in extreme scenarios. Too much smoke can prevent visual sensors from working, for example,” Wachs said.

Researchers from Purdue and the IU School of Medicine tested STAR with first responders

Health Life

Computational gene study suggests new pathway for COVID-19 inflammatory response

A normal blood vessel, shown at top, is compared with a blood vessel affected by excess bradykinin. A hyperactive bradykinin system permits fluid, shown in yellow, to leak out and allows immune cells, shown in purple, to squeeze their way out of blood vessels. Credit: Jason Smith/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Analyses of lung fluid cells from COVID-19 patients conducted on the nation’s fastest supercomputer point to gene expression patterns that may explain the runaway symptoms produced by the body’s response to SARS-CoV-2.

A team led by Dan Jacobson of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory used the Summit supercomputer at ORNL to analyze from cells in the lung fluid of nine COVID-19 patients compared with 40 control patients.

The computational analyses suggest that genes related to one of the body’s systems responsible for lowering blood pressure—the system—appear to be excessively “turned on” in the lung fluid cells of those with the virus. The results were published in eLife.

Based on their analyses, the team posits that bradykinin—the compound that dilates blood vessels and makes them permeable—is overproduced in the body of COVID-19 patients; related systems either contribute to overproduction or cannot slow the process. Excessive bradykinin leads to leaky blood vessels, allowing fluid to build up in the body’s soft tissues.

Much attention has focused on what’s known as the cytokine storm, a severe reaction in which the body releases an excess of cytokines, a variety of small proteins that help regulate the immune system. Jacobson’s team thinks a bradykinin storm may instead be to blame for much of the viral pathogenesis. If the team’s disease mechanism model is accurate and substantiated by experimental analysis, it may mean that existing medicines could be repurposed to slow the pathogenesis of COVID-19. This would require extensive