In case you have not heard the terms already Big Data is the study of very large data sets which come from huge sources of data such as genome analysis of patients or genomics or the rapid analysis of the millions of proteins in a drop of blood or in cells, proteomics. The data is called ‘big’ because not only can a single patient give potentially huge amounts of data, with newer and increasingly faster techniques of analysis large populations of patients can be analysed rapidly with the data being pooled. The data collected will range in the billions of points of data, all requiring super fast computers and clever mathematicians to analyse the difference between patients give a certain medication. Trying to find what makes some patients respond well to medication and others not.
On the flip side of the coin is what could be called “Big Brother” medicine. Here researchers collect real time data with multiple sensors. Sensors that monitor whether or not you are in the kitchen or at the local pizza place, that monitor how much you have moved, did you just open the fridge door, who is next to you and then send you a reminder in real time to rethink your dietary choices or do some more exercise. This might sound like science fiction but we are on the brink of this revolution in medicine. Have a listen to Eric Topol who interviews Donna Spruijt-Metz on how mobile sensors can be used to both understand childhood obesity and change eating behavior.