Allergies

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Digital health trial overview

Environmental allergies and their close relative, seasonal allergies, can make a huge impact on your day-to-day life. It can be relatively difficult to pinpoint what exactly in your environment is causing your reaction, which is why environmental allergies are a prime subject of research.

Siteless (or remote) digital health trials that can reach allergy sufferers in real-time combined with the power of A.I. tools can help us better  answer these questions, faster. In August of 2018, doc.ai launched its first digital health trial to ask, "Can A.I. predict your risk of allergies?" (Enrollment for the trial is now closed.)

Dr. Chirag Patel from Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Chethan Sarabu, Director of Clinical Informatics at doc.ai and physician at Stanford Medicine, are in the process of analyzing the data from Allergy Digital Health Trial participants holistically and will share the results in the coming months once published. You can view preliminary results here.

What causes allergies?

An allergy is an abnormal response to a normally harmless substance called an allergen. This can be a tree, dust mites, nuts, or almost anything else. For unknown reasons, when these substances come into contact with your body, your immune system identifies them as invaders. This kicks off a defensive chain reaction of chemicals, which usually manifests in something called a histamine reaction.

What are environmental and seasonal allergies?

Allergies don’t all fit under the same umbrella, and it helps to know the difference. The types of can be broadly placed into three categories: allergies, environmental allergies, food allergies, and drug allergies. The most common of all types of allergies fall under the environmental allergies category. These are cases when something in your surrounding context causes a histamine reaction and thus results in general unpleasantness. Some of the most common environmental allergens include pollen, dust mites, pets, and mold. Although this isn’t an exhaustive list. Environmental allergies also include a subset known as seasonal allergies that are more geographical and temporal in nature.

Seasonal common allergens may change depending on the season, whereas environmental allergies are often persistent, they come back year after year (or never leave), and are usually treated with over-the-counter medicines. In most cases, pollens from trees and grasses are the main culprits. The only upside of seasonal allergies Is that is that you can usually get some relief when the seasons change, although you may still occasionally experience a flare-up.

How does the study work?

doc.ai, your health companion app, allows you to collect and contribute your health information to help further allergy research.

For this study, participants were asked to collect basic information about their overall health in the mobile app. Then, Next, doc.ai worked to connect the dots between the biology, lifestyle, and environmental factors that may impact allergies. We call these pieces of health information, "personal omics." More specifically, doc.ai was looking at DNA, age, height, weight, and other important biological and health-related factors that can impact allergies.

At the end of the study, participants received an individualized report that included a visual snapshot of their symptoms, triggers, and the time of day they were more likely to experience allergies. The report was exportable so participants could share it with their clinician.

Symptom tracking report

How could A.I. help allergy research?

A.I., and specifically machine learning, is a powerful tool that allows researchers to look for patterns in large sets of data. These data sets are much too large to analyze without the computing power that A.I. has to offer. It would take a large team of humans many years to go through the data that A.I. can in just a few hours. A.I. works by running a wide variety of processes and data collection techniques to look for patterns in said data.

As we've explored above, allergens present a huge pool of possible influences and symptom outcomes for a single person, let alone millions, which you can't collate with a human workforce in a feasible time span.

By turning to A.I. allergy research, we could uncover new insights, shorten research times, and provide a more comprehensive picture of allergies on an individual level. In the future, this could provide a powerful and comprehensive picture of each participant’s health, as well as a better understanding of how allergies affect us all.

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