Focused ultrasound is fast becoming a therapeutic force in medicine
Ric Edelman: It's Thursday, August 31st. Why haven't we been able to cure Alzheimer's disease yet? Well, one big reason is that it's very difficult to get drugs into the brain. There's something called the blood brain barrier. This exists to protect the brain, but it also stops a lot of the therapies from getting in.
You see, most drugs get introduced into our bodies, into the bloodstream or from a pill that you swallow or from a mist. You inhale or a liquid that's injected into your arm or whatever. The medicine, however, it gets introduced into your body. The medicine then has to get from the capillaries; that's your body's smallest blood vessels. They got to get from the capillaries into the cells that the medicine is targeting in the brain. The capillary walls are so tightly packed with cells that they essentially form a barrier that the vast majority of drugs simply can't get through the blood brain barrier.
But now there's a new treatment that might do the trick. It combines focused ultrasound with tiny bubbles in the bloodstream, and together it can push drugs into the brain to get to tumors that doctors otherwise can't reach. And the tech, they say, will be able to be used to treat Alzheimer's as well as cancer.
Here's how it works. Doctors inject tiny bubbles into the bloodstream. The bubbles hold the medicine and these bubbles travel throughout your body in the bloodstream. At the same time, the doctors aim a focused ultrasound at the capillary walls that are surrounding and protecting the tumor inside the brain.
This creates temporary microscopic gaps so that when the bubbles pass by, they're able to get past the blood brain barrier and the ultrasound bursts, the bubbles releasing the medicine right onto the tumor. Pretty cool.
This is still in the study phase. We got to make sure that the disruption caused by the ultrasound doesn't cause any lasting damage to the surrounding tissue. They've completed one small study of patients with brain cancer, and doctors were able to deliver four times more medicine than they could with other methods.
Another company from Norway used the tech to treat two patients with tumors in their liver. And in San Francisco, a company is using focused ultrasound and microbubbles to deliver gene therapies.
Eventually, they'll prove this out. When they do, it could revolutionize the treatment of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cancer. That all sounds pretty exciting. But you know what? Something a little more fundamental with all of this these days. We're all so busy. Even when you're starting to not feeling all that well. Who's got time to go to the doctor? I don't know about you, but I don't anymore. I don't go to the doctor. I text to the doctor pretty much all the time. And not just 9 to 5. Monday through Friday, my doctor texts with me whenever.
Doctors, nurse practitioners, even insurance companies - they all love telemedicine. And digital health technology leads to better patient care that keeps people healthy. That is how we control health care costs. Telemedicine is now being used by psychiatrists who use it to assess, diagnose, treat and consult with patients. It's particularly helpful for people who live far away from mental health services.
Telemedicine is also being used to provide rapid diagnosis and treatment for stroke patients. Telestroke connects emergency physicians with neurologists and stroke specialists who can evaluate the patient's symptoms, review imaging studies and recommend treatment. And you've got something weird on your skin. Today with Teledermatology, you can send photos of your skin to a dermatologist for diagnosis. Maybe an office visit isn't needed.
Oncologists and cardiologists, they're using telecon for remote consultation, monitoring, education and support for patients. Doctors can monitor EKGs remotely. You get faster care, better treatment. We are rapidly advancing the treatment of health care.
This is not only a great for us as patients and caregivers, it's great for us as investors too.
Just imagine the investment opportunities and you can indeed invest in this trend using the Global X Telemedicine and Digital Health ETF. The symbol is EDOC. It invests in companies in telemedicine, health care analytics and connected health care devices, including administrative digitization. The fund tracks the Solactive Telemedicine and Digital Health Index. It's passively managed. I like the fund because it invests in companies that are removing inefficiencies in the delivery of health care that not only lowers the cost of care, but it makes it available to more people, especially for those in underserved markets where it's hard to find doctors.
Telemedicine is projected to grow 20% a year for the rest of the decade to half $1 trillion. I don't have to tell you how big the health care business is. Okay. I will. Here in the US, we're spending $37 trillion a year just on chronic illness. If we attack these costs with new tech, wearable tech, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more digital health, companies can cut costs while improving patient care. You can invest in this trend with the Global X Telemedicine and Digital Health ETF, symbol EDOC. E-D-O-C. If you're an investor, talk to your financial advisor about this. If you are a financial advisor, talk to your contacts at Global X or visit Global X ETFs.com.
You know, I like to talk about the things that matter most. So I encourage you to listen to my wife. Jean's podcast, Self-Care with Jean Edelman. Her new weekly episode comes out today. Jean shares her experience and knowledge with you on self-care, mindfulness and overall wellness. You can listen to Jean everywhere you get your podcasts and you can also subscribe to Self-Care with Jean.com. Have a great holiday weekend. I'll be back with you on Tuesday.