How a Chinese Firm Is Using Artificial Intelligence to Zero In on Liver Cancer

Zhuang Pinghui wrote . . . . . . . . .

A Chinese genomics firm says it has found a way to detect liver cancer linked to hepatitis B months before it can be picked up by other methods.

The conclusion was based on a study by Genetron Health and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Cancer Hospital using a method called HCCscreen, which applies artificial intelligence to look for tumour-related mutations in DNA in blood.

The researchers found that the new method could pick up early signs of the cancer in people who had tested negative based on traditional alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and ultrasound examinations.

Genetron Health chief executive Wang Sizhen said early detection was important because it significantly increased the chances of survival.

“The study is a breakthrough in genomics technology and it’s likely to help hepatitis B virus carriers, whose risk of liver cancer is much higher,” Wang said.

The researchers first used AI technology to identify biomarkers common in known cases of a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC.

The team then developed the HCCscreen technique to look for those markers and used it on 331 people with hepatitis B who had tested negative for liver cancer in AFP and ultrasound exams.

Twenty-four people tested positive with HCCscreen and were tracked over eight months, with four eventually being diagnosed with early-stage liver cancer.

The four patients had surgery to remove the tumours and the other 20 in the positive group had a second HCCscreen test, with mixed results. Wang said all participants in the group of 20 would continue to be monitored.

“This is the first large-scale prospective study on early diagnosis [of liver cancer],” he said.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month.

There are about 93 million people with hepatitis B in China and carriers of the virus have a much higher risk of developing liver cancer.

Liver cancer is generally difficult to detect in its early stages, and twice-yearly ultrasounds and AFP tests for the disease are recommended for high-risk groups such as people with hepatitis B virus infections, or cirrhosis – scarring of liver tissue.

But in China, most HCC cases were detected at advanced stage, the authors of the study wrote.

According to the National Cancer Centre, 466,000 people were diagnosed with liver cancer and 422,000 died from the disease in China in 2015.

Wang said the company aimed to commercialise the technology but even then it would take time to ensure it was affordable.

“[High-risk] people need to have regular screening. This is important for public health but the technology must be affordable enough to be widespread,” Wang said. “The ultimate goal of this study is to develop a product that people in China can afford.”

Source : SCMP

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China To Launch Its First Mainstream Vegan Yogurt

Maria Chiorando wrote . . . . . . . . .

The first ‘mainstream’ vegan yogurt is set to hit shelves in China in April.

Food giant Nongfu Spring created the range which reportedly took three years of research and development.

Chinese media has speculated that the product could be ‘the start of a completely new category of yogurt in the industry’.

Vegan yogurt

The range, which will include three flavors – walnut, coconut, and almond – will capitalize on the growing global demand for vegan food – a report released in 2018 by Innova Market Insights showed there was a 62 percent increase in plant-based product

“The dairy alternatives market has been a particular beneficiary of this trend,” Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, said in a statement.

“With the growing availability and promotion of plant-based options to traditional dairy lines, specifically milk beverages, and cultured products such as yogurt, frozen desserts and ice-cream.”

Something new

Speaking about the yogurt sector, she added: “In the move to offer something new, we are starting to see an increasing variety of non-soy plant-based ingredients, including cereals such as rice, oats, and barley.

“We also noticed an increase in nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, and macadamias, as well as coconut and more unusual options such as lupin, hemp and flaxseed.”

Source: Plant Based News

China’s Regulator Finds 35,000 Illegal Restaurants on Platforms of Online Food Delivery Providers

Yingzhi Yang wrote . . . . . . . . .

Chinese on-demand delivery services operators, including Meituan Dianping and Alibaba Group Holding-owned Ele.me, are tightening inspection of restaurants (ghost kitchens) on their online platforms, after a government regulator found up to 35,000 such establishments were operating illegally.

The Beijing Market Supervision Administration, which has initiated more than 2,100 cases against those illegal food merchants, announced on Wednesday that it has met with these platform operators to “ensure the safety of online-ordered food”. It did not identify the offending merchants.

Many of the restaurants listed with the online delivery platforms operators either did not have a licence or carried a fake licence, according to the regulator. It said the platforms failed to set up a strict inspection system to review the quality of food vendors they do business with.

The country’s major food delivery platform players were on board with the regulator’s direction, according to separate statements they made on Wednesday.

“We will use our Sky Net system to strengthen our inspection mechanism,” said Lu Weijia, chief food security officer at Meituan Dianping. In addition, Lu said the company plans to set up food safety insurance for its users.

Sky Net, which provides a digital archive of all the merchants on Meituan Dianping’s platforms, is also being integrated by the company with local regulatory databases to help speed up its merchant verification and inspection processes.

“We’ll carry out what the Market Supervision Administration has asked us to do,” said an Ele.me spokesman. Ele.me has already established a credit system for food vendors, which will take unqualified suppliers offline permanently, the spokesman said.

The regulator’s action has come as more Chinese consumers choose to order food online and receive delivery offline. It is a market segment in which on-demand delivery app operator Meituan Waimai, a unit of Hong Kong-listed Meituan Dianping, is the country’s largest player.

Meituan Dianping and Ele.me account for a combined 98 per cent of the food delivery services market in China, according to recent industry estimates.

Last year, there were more than 36 million users of online food delivery services on the mainland, a report by Data Centre of China Internet has estimated. That amounted to 445 billion yuan (US$66.3 billion) in total transactions, according to Chinese market research firm Analysys.

Tencent Holdings-backed Meituan Dianping reported a wider net loss of 3.4 billion yuan in the December quarter amid intense competition for market share with Ele.me in on-demand deliveries and with Ctrip, Qunar and Alibaba’s Fliggy in the online travel segment.

Source: SCMP

Chinese Couple Fined US$1,500 for Cooking Endangered Naked Carp for Their Parents

Michelle Wong wrote . . . . . . . . .

A couple from northwest China who decided to treat their parents to a home-cooked meal found themselves in hot water recently after their choice of main course turned out to be a rare and protected species of fish.

The problem started when the pair from Qinghai province filmed themselves preparing the naked carp (Gymnocypris przewalskii) and uploaded the footage to social media, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Friday.

Eagle-eyed internet users quickly spotted the couple’s mistake and wasted no time in berating them. Their collective outpouring of anger caught the attention of local authorities and the pair found themselves being visited by police from the Qinghai Lake National Nature Reserve.

Naked carp, which get their name from the fact they have almost no scales, migrate annually from the freshwater rivers where they spawn to the saltwater Lake Qinghai, the largest in China.

Although their numbers have been growing steadily – from about 2,600 tonnes in 2002 to 88,000 tonnes in November – the fish are still classed as endangered on the China Species Red List after years of overfishing and loss of habitat.

Because of its protected status the couple were fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,500) under China’s Wildlife Protection Law, the report said.

It did not say how the couple came by the fish, but the wife, identified only as Song, said her husband, who was not named, bought them.

Despite the hostile reaction the couple’s video received online, the response to the CCTV report was more supportive.

“[Naked carp] is super delicious. As a Qinghai resident, I used to eat it. Will they fine me 10,000 yuan because of this comment?” one person wrote.

“They bought the fish from others. They might not have known what kind it was. Why did they not punish the person who sold it to them?” asked another.

The couple are not the first to fall foul of China’s wildlife protection laws.

In November, a man was given five months’ detention and fined almost 12,000 yuan after being caught fishing for naked carp, while a month earlier a man from Xining, the capital of Qinghai, was fined 7,000 yuan for posting a video of himself cooking the fish.

Source: SCMP

In Pictures: Food of the Wujie in Shanghai, China

Modern Vegetarian Fine Dining

The Restaurant