Dec 06, 2017

Healthcare November roundup – Digital pills, smart inhalers and nanoshells

Estimated reading time: 6-8 minutes

Welcome to our November healthcare roundup, taking a quick look at the latest health tech stories that have caught our eye.

As we get closer to the end of the year, it’s incredible to think about how many health innovations and concepts we’ve seen that can improve wellbeing – and November is no different. Welcome to our latest healthcare roundup, taking a quick look at the latest health tech stories that have caught our eye.

The pill that know when you've taken it

The world’s first digital pill that tracks whether patients are taking their medication has been approved by U.S regulators. The pill works by sending a message from a sensor the size of a grain of salt that is activated when coming into contact with stomach contents, letting doctors see if patients are taking their pills when they are scheduled to.

 

The technology could prove to be valuable for healthcare professionals who need to monitor patient medication intakes, giving them an objective way to measure the effectiveness of the treatment. 

Trojan horse nanoshells for cancer treatment

Researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas are working on a new approach to cancer treatment that uses the existing immune system to deliver drugs deep into tumors, using laser-activated nanoshells. By combining the nanoshells with white blood cells, patients are less likely to suffer harmful side-effects with their treatment as the drug payloads are only released once activated. 

 

The technique uses spheres of glass that at 10% the size of a normal red blood cell, encased in a thin layer of gold. Drugs can then be loaded onto the outer layer until they are hit by light (or laser) that can harmlessly penetrate tissue – causing the load to detach and get to work.

 

As the technology continues to develop, this Trojan horse strategy can deliver drug payloads with higher accuracy and with less impact on healthy tissue.

The Sleep & Respiratory Care’s (SRC) Compliance Lab started as a small test lab 20 years ago. Today, it boasts a space of roughly 8,000 square feet and contains three types of test areas where employees can run tests to ensure that Philips develops and deploys safe, compliant and reliable products. It’s an Intertek-certified Satellite Level 3 lab. This means that the lab has permission to independently conduct tests and simply submit the reports to Intertek for a swift review of the data to gain final certification.

 

To maintain Satellite Level 3 certification, the lab undergoes an extensive annual audit by Intertek. Here, the Philips Quality System, the calibration records of all equipment, and the training records of all lab employees are extensively reviewed.

 

Most importantly, auditors evaluate the knowledge and testing capabilities of all personnel in the lab. 

Flexible stents for heart patients

Our blood vessels are remarkably flexible, putting up with constant contractions and pressures as part of their natural function. However, when a stent is put into one following a surgery, they inhibit the ability of vessels to pulse as normal, putting the patient at risk of further medical complications such as restenosis or cardio vascular disease.

 

In an effort to remedy this, a California firm is developing a stent that behaves the same as a traditional metal stent for the first few months before becoming more flexible and allowing for natural vessel motion. As well as giving vessels the freedom to move, this flexible design may also help avoid fractures in the stent.

A new kind of digital inhaler

Delivering drugs to the lungs comes with its own unique set of challenges, such as the best way to deliver differently-sized drug particles. A company from North Carolina may have developed a solution to this challenge with their digital inhaler, which can be set to deliver different sized drug particles to the lungs – meaning that it can work with a variety of medications. Not only will this help the right drugs get to the right areas of the lung for improved effectiveness, it can also track its own usage and upload data via Bluetooth – allowing caregivers to monitor the treatment and analyze effectiveness.

Stitches and staples – but faster

Combining the ease of a bandage with the strength of sutures, a Seattle-based company have developed a groundbreaking skin closure device that could change the way doctors treat wounds and incisions.  Using a thin adhesive strip and two tiny microstaples on both sides, doctors and nurses can place it across a wound, before allowing the microstaples to close up. As the staples are packed so tightly together, there will be almost no gap in the wound, reducing the chance of infections and promoting better healing.

 

During trials, application of the technology was three times fast to apply than traditional sutures, with both doctors and patients preferring to use it because of better comfort and healing. Although the device is currently primarily meant for dermatological and plastic surgeries, it could be further developed to be used in emergency situations and other surgeries.

About Innovation Matters

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. From interviews with industry giants to how-to guides and features powered by Philips data, our goal is to deliver interesting, educational and entertaining content to empower and inspire all those who work in healthcare or related industries.

 

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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.