Aug 17, 2017

News In Health Technology: August

Estimated reading time: 4-6 minutes

Welcome to the August edition of the health new roundup, bringing you a small selection of the most creative and innovative healthcare tech stories from around the world.

This month we explore a pioneering new approach to fertility care, rehab robots, new cancer tests and a new insight into Alzheimer’s.

A breakthrough in freezing fertility?

Instead of freezing eggs, why not freeze ovarian tissue instead? This is a question asked by US doctors who carried out a study, recently published in the Reproductive sciences journal. By looking at data between 19999 and 2016, researchers found that more than a third of women who froze their ovarian tissue, instead of their eggs, were able to conceive.
 

This is hopeful news for women who were previously unable to undertake fertility treatment due to conflicting medical conditions. Although the procedure is still in an experimental stage, it indicates that it could also potentially restore reproductive functions in women and even reverse menopause.Pumps are typically used in the time leading up to a heart transplant surgery for patients who are diagnosed with heart failure. However, it now seems that patients fitted with the devices actually have their heart functions restored to a level where they may no longer need the surgery at all. Could this pave the way for reversing the effects of heart failure?

Bioengineered blood vessels

From artificial ovaries through to prosthetic limbs, 3D printing has created massive potential in the world of healthcare technology. Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have taken one step closer to being able to generate implantable capillaries which could save the lives of heart patients in a process called tubulogenesis.
 

By using a special combination of cells, researchers will potentially be able to grow cells with vasculature – meaning that they will be able to form tissues that will not die due to a lack of nutrients. The ultimate goal is to be able to carry out 3D bio printing to build vessels that can connect to pumps and be able to supply tissues with blood.

Robots in rehab

Scientists in Switzerland have been trialling a new robotic system that is able to help patients with physical rehabilitation. By using a harness suspended from the ceiling, robot motors are able to support and adjust according to the movement of the patient, catching them before they are able to fall or stumble - whilst giving them enough space to retrain their bodies. The assistive force is controlled by an algorithm which can learn over time, using data taken from sensors that record muscle activity, position of the legs and stride length.

Liquid biopsies for cancer patients

A blood test known as a ‘liquid’ biopsy could help women with late-stage breast cancer receive more personalised treatment, potentially extending their lives. Researchers in the University of Leicester can use the test to detect and track changes in 13 different genes by analysing blood plasma and using the findings to determine which treatments would be the most effective, and when.
 

With 150 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed every day in the UK, this could help increase survival rates and pave the way for better diagnostics for millions of women worldwide.

Metabolic measurement on the go

As part of a shift towards preventative and faster reactive care, MIT Lincoln Laboratory in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine have created a new kind of metabolic sensor. Known as COBRA (otherwise known as the Carbon dioxide/Oxygen Breath and Respiration Analyzer), people are able to make metabolic measurements on the spot, simply by breathing into a small piece of equipment.
 

Current technology that carries out a similar task costs anywhere between $40,000 and $50,000 and is mainly used in a clinical setting due to its size. With the development of COBRA, athletes, soldiers and those interested in weight loss and training will have a much more affordable and portable solution for testing their metabolic rates.

A potential to reverse Alzheimer’s?

As the most common form on dementia, Alzheimer’s is caused by the accumulation of a toxic plaque on the brain that damages and destroys nerve cells. The substance is thought to erase memories and cause amnesia, but scientists at Columbia University in New York believe that these memories can be recovered, if the plaque is removed.
 

By using lasers in a new proof of concept, researchers were able to restore some memories in mice related to smell that were previously thought to be forgotten. This has the potential to lead to the development of a drug that can actually help people regain memories and reduce the impact that Alzheimer’s has on millions of people worldwide

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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.