Follow the Data

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A self-experimenter’s molecular autobiography

While perhaps not quite in the league of George Mines, who used himself as a test subject for checking whether you could stop a person’s heart by applying an electrical pulse to the heart at exactly the right phase in the heartbeat cycle, David Ewing Duncan is nevertheless a pretty fearless writer and journalist.

Duncan wanted to find out how much you can learn about your health by applying all kinds of new-fangled tests like those offered by personal genomics companies such as Navigenics, Knome, and 23andme. He then wrote a book, “The Experimental Man”, about what he learned. He has set up a blog and a web site about the book and talked about it e.g. at the Tech Nation podcast (highly recommended) and at a Quantified Self session.

One of the coolest things, from my perspective, is the story  Duncan relates about going to Entelos, a physiological modeling company, to let them predict his risk of getting a heart attack. None of the conventional tests had put him in any kind of risk zone, but Entelos’ predictive models, which integrate various kinds of information from patient data and use them for forecasts, gave a high risk for him getting a heart attack if he gained any more weight. According to  Duncan, his doctor did not believe this prediction at first, but eventually came around after having discussed it at some depth with people from Entelos.  Duncan has changed his lifestyle as a result of this prediction.

The reason I personally find this interesting is that I have known about Entelos for a long time, and even interviewed their former CEO for a Swedish magazine. Still, I was never quite sure exactly how they did what they did (the answers I got were sort of generic) and how reliable the predictions really are. The  Duncan anecdote (which I have not really done justice here) gave me a much better sense of what Entelos’ models are about.

Anyway, check out “The Experimental Man” and the accompanying website!

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One thought on “A self-experimenter’s molecular autobiography

  1. Pingback: Link roundup « Follow the Data

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