Innovation Matters

Dec 15, 2017

December healthcare roundup – A year of medical marvels

Estimated reading time: 6-8 minutes

To wrap up this year’s healthcare roundup series, we have just a few more stories to share with you

It’s been an exciting year for healthcare technology. The rise of AI, 3D printed prosthetics, drone deliveries, robotics and advances in cancer care have once again raised the bar in medical innovation, creativity and potential for better wellbeing around the world. To wrap up this year’s healthcare roundup series, we have just a few more stories to share with you:

A new artificial patch to repair heart tissue

Artificially engineered heart tissue has been developed by researchers at Duke University, Carolina which is large enough to patch over damaged tissue caused by a heart attack. Although it isn’t the first cardiac tissue to be engineered, it is the first production that is large enough to usefully cover up the damaged area, whilst remaining electrically active and strong enough to withstand the functions of the heart.

 

Unlike other human organs that can regenerate damaged tissue, the heart is unable to do so following a heart attack, and instead forms scar tissue that impairs normal function – a problem that could be solved with the new patches.

3D printed bacteria that could make up skin replacements

From breaking down toxins through to synthesizing vitamins, harnessing the power of bacteria has strong potential for use in the medical world. ETH researchers in Zurich have been developing a special ink that can be loaded with bacteria, who produce high-purity nanocellulose – a substance that can be used in healing.

 

As well as reducing pain and retaining moisture, their stability means that they could be used for wound patches and even new skin that could one day fit people perfectly (although the research is still in its initial stages). As the research continues even more medical applications could be discovered, further merging medical care with microscopic organisms.

Using VR and GPS to detect lung cancer

Doctors at Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore have successfully carried out 33 procedures using VR and GPS technology to pinpoint cancer in the lungs more accurately. With this approach, a 3D roadmap is created in the lungs, giving doctors several options to choose from when inserting a tube through the windpipe towards the suspected cancerous area. An onscreen map helps to guide the procedure, giving the doctor an accurate indication of how far they are away from the cancer cells. They are then able to take tissue samples for further investigation.

 

Traditional lung biopsies come with the risk of puncturing the lung as the doctor cannot see where to go within the windpipes and vessels. By using this approach, they will be able to reduce this risk and be able to extract samples in a more precise way.

Creating tailored ear prosthetics with 3D printing

The evolution of 3D printing has already changed the healthcare world, and as the technology continues to become more efficient and accurate with different materials, the potential will only increase. In yet another innovative use of the technology, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have created artificial replacements for damaged parts of the middle ear.

 

Currently, reconstructive surgery to tackle hearing loss comes with a high failure rate which may be down to incorrect sizing of implants. However, by using 3D printing, doctors will be able to create highly accurate prosthetics that can be tailored for patients, leading to more successful operations.

Nanoparticles for better cancer detection

Being able to track the progression of cancer in real time is now possible thanks to light-emitting nanoparticles. By using this new approach, scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick will be able to detect tiny tumors and track their spread, enabling earlier cancer detection and more precise treatment.

 

In many cases, early detection of tumors remains a major challenge in diagnosis and treatment, as current imaging methods may miss small cancerous lesions. Through the injection of nanoprobes (microscopic optical devices), infrared light is able to spot them in unprecedented detail. Potentially available in five years, it is believed to be faster than MRIs and will help increase survival rates through of earlier detection.

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Innovation matters team

Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization.