Stressors and the New Normal in the Medical and Health Field
The world is in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical and social systems have been severely stressed. Regional and individual differences in symptoms, severity, fatality rates, and prognosis have been significant. This has brought to light the issue of ensuring not only the safety of citizens, but also healthcare professionals, while reaffirming the breadth and depth of unknown conditions in the body. For this reason, the causes of diseases need to be clarified more than ever before, and more precise and individualized prevention, treatment and care, such as treatment of individuals and optimization of health activities by prior simulation, are required. Expectations are also rising for future predictions of the mind and body, such as anticipating the occurrence of unknown diseases and responding to them.
Medical and Health Vision
NTT has been promoting the IOWN (Innovative Optical and Wireless Network). One initiaive of the IOWN is digital twin computing, which will develop a detailed mapping (Bio Digital Twin and below, BDT) of a person’s mind and body. Through this mapping, we could predict the future of the physical and mental state of each person, contributing to the future of personalized medical care in which people can maintain health and hope for the future. We hereby define medical care, including health management, nursing care, support for persons with disabilities, as well as medical care provided by healthcare professionals.
In order to realize the future of a patient’s wellbeing, (1) we must first create a digital mapping of organ functions. (2) Our vital activities are restlessly changing in response to environmental or internal stressors, thus, biological information such as electrocardiograms, heart sounds, blood glucose levels (biomarker), etc. are invaluable variables of BDT and must be measured at all times, or in a timely manner, with little burden on the body of an individual. (3) Simulated predictions of mental and physical conditions are referenced on multi-layered networks from genome and metabolomes to physiome and the psychology of individual affairs, (4) In situ diagnosis and treatment in microscopic areas of the target organs, and (5) Advanced intelligent care and support for people with disabilities.
To accomplish those five goals, NTT will advance R&D to develop innovative technologies to create a BDT of each person in cyberspace, advance real-time and non-invasive sensor technologies for physical and mental states, conduct mathematically solid and high-speed analysis of multi-modal data captured from each person as well as from a mass of people, and develop theoretically sound prediction technology for healthcare and behavior science, implantable devices and soft robots with in situ information transmission and control.
In realizing the BDT, a wide-variety of use cases are expected, including maximizing therapeutic effects by simulating the effects of drugs and surgery in advance, improving unconscious and natural lifestyle habits derived from individual behavioral mechanisms, reducing medical malpractice and so on. One of our groups has launched a brand-new study on “Cardiovascular BDT.” The cardiovascular system functions to maintain homeostasis of our body delivering oxygen and nutrients to all of our body. The multilayered mechanisms in which cardiovascular diseases develop over a long time through instantaneous control by autonomic nervous system, oxygen and energy metabolism, renal and humoral function, aging, atherosclerosis, and lifestyle are being studied to contribute to the creation of the BDT.
The realization and social implementation of BDT require the interdisciplinary collaboration of hard science in the fields of medicine and engineering. Therefore, we plan to establish a consortium/forum for medicine and engineering in the fiscal year 2021 to collaborate with universities and other academic institutions, medical institutions, companies, local governments, and other partners.
We will introduce some of our efforts in this vision and related technological development at the NTT R&D Forum 2020 Connect (https://www.rd.ntt/forum/ ), which will be held from November 17, 2020 to November 20, 2020.