DiversityNursing Blog

Google Glass Improves Parkinson's Symptoms

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Jun 10, 2015 @ 02:49 PM

Moving Through Glass Image resized 600

Here’s an interesting option for people with Parkinson’s Disease to cope with the motor skills challenges they face every day. It’s another example of technology improving people’s lives.

Parkinson's Disease is a nervous system disorder that affects a person's movement. The most common sign of this disease is hand tremors. Other signs like stiffness or slow movement can also be common. Parkinson's Disease has symptoms that will worsen with progression of the condition over time. This disease has no cure but, medications or physical therapy programs can help improve symptoms. 

Google Glass was a failure. At least, according to most people. But not for one specific group: people with Parkinson's. They've been experimenting with new software for Glass and say that it improves the quality of their lives.

People suffering from Parkinson's have challenges with their motor skills. Joy Esterberg, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2003, compares the feeling to moving through mud. She was an early adopter of the Glass software, which has been in development for the last year. 

"It is very sci-fi," Esterberg said of Glass. "What I like about it is that I can wear it at home. You have the little screen, you see David dancing, and you can follow the moves." 

She's talking about David Leventhal, the director of the Mark Morris Dance Group's Dance for PD program, which has been offering free dance classes for people with Parkinson's since 2001.

When a user activates Glass, they can choose from a variety of different exercises, like "warm me up" or "balance me." Once selected, they see Leventhal or one of his co-teachers projected in front of them. 

This technology is especially important because when people with Parkinson's walk down the street, they sometimes freeze up. In order to get going again, they often need to watch someone else's movements or footsteps. This can be problematic, especially if there's no one around.

The software, called Moving Through Glass, is based off exercises done in Leventhal's weekly class. The movements have roots in ballet and modern dance, and include a lot of extension exercises, which are particularly helpful for people with Parkinson's. Some students are very mobile, while others are confined to wheelchairs and exercise with assistance. 

To get the Glass project going, Leventhal applied for a $25,000 Google (GOOG) grant. He got it, and then partnered with SS+K, a New-York based advertising agency with a strong focus on social responsibility. It developed the software for free through its innovation lab.

Though still in the pilot stage, it's hoped that the software will make people with Parkinson's more independent and confident when they go outside. 

"It's surprisingly un-weird," Esterberg said. "In New York, nobody is going to look at you if you have something on your face. You'd have to have orange feathers sticking out of it for people to notice." 

More and more of the students in her dance class will be using Glass as part of the program. There are about 50 people who attend each week in Brooklyn, and it's known as a place for camaraderie and acceptance. 

"Everyone comes to dance class for a reason," Leventhal said. "Some people come to escape Parkinson's. Some people come because they want to work on specific skills related to balance or coordination or musicality."

There isn't data on how successful the class has been, but Levanthal said he sees it in students' stories. One student, he said, had been able to dance at a family member's wedding thanks to the class. Esterberg said she dances better now than she did before Parkinson's because she practices every day. 

For now, the Glass software is still in the early stages, and the dance studio has 25 pairs available for students to borrow. However, the future is uncertain because Google stopped selling Glass earlier this year, saying it will focus on future incarnations. 

Whatever Glass 2.0 looks like, Leventhal said his students will have a lot of feedback and, no matter what, they'll still be dancing. Esterberg certainly will be, and said she hopes more people will see that a diagnosis doesn't have to mean giving up. 

"You can do new things," she said. "You don't have to just accept [that Parkinson's is] the end of everything. Because it really isn't."

Contributor: Jillian Eugenios and Erica Bettencourt

Story Source: CNN

Topics: innovation, medical technology, health, healthcare, patients, Google Glass, Parkinson's Disease

5 Reasons Radiation Treatment has Never Been Safer (Op-Ed)

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 01:40 PM

Dr. Edward Soffen

Source: www.livescience.com

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Dr. Edward Soffen is a board-certified radiation oncologist and medical director of the Radiation Oncology Department at CentraState Medical Center's Statesir Cancer Center in Freehold, New Jersey. He contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

As a radiation oncologist, my goal is to use radiation as an extremely powerful and potent tool to eradicate cancer tumors in the body: These techniques save and extend patients' lives every day. 

Historically, radiation treatments have been challenged by the damage they cause healthy tissue surrounding a tumor, but new technologies are now slashing those risks.

How radiation therapies work

High-energy radiation kills cancer cells by damaging DNA so severely that the diseased cells die. Radiation treatments may come from a machine (x-ray or proton beam), radioactive material placed in the body near tumor cells, or from a fluid injected into the bloodstream. A patient may receive radiation therapy before or after surgery and/or chemotherapy, depending on the type, location and stage of the cancer. 

Today's treatment options target radiation more directly to a tumor — quickly, and less invasively — shortening overall radiation treatment times. And using new Internet-enabled tools, physicians across the country can collaborate by sharing millions of calculations and detailed algorithms for customizing the best treatment protocols for each patient. With just a few computer key strokes, complicated treatment plans can be anonymously shared with other physicians at remote sites who have expertise in a particular oncologic area. Through this collaboration, doctors offer their input and suggestions for optimizing treatment. In turn, the patient benefits from a wide community of physicians who share expertise based upon their research, clinical expertise and first-hand experience. 

The result is safer, more effective treatments. Here are five of the most exciting examples:

1. Turning breast cancer upside down

When the breast is treated while the patient is lying face down, with radiation away from the heart and lungs, a recent study found an 86 percent reduction in the amount of lung tissue irradiated in the right breast and a 91 percent reduction in the left breast. Additionally, administering prone-position radiation therapy in this fashion does not inhibit the effectiveness of the treatment in any way.

2. Spacer gel for prostate cancer

Prostate cancer treatment involves delivering a dose of radiation to the prostate that will destroy the tumor cells, but not adversely affect the patient. A new hydrogel, a semi-solid natural substance, will soon be used to decrease toxicity from radiation beams to the nearby rectum. The absorbable gel is injected by a syringe between the prostate and the rectum which pushes the rectum out of the way while treating the prostate. As a result, there is much less radiation inadvertently administered to the rectum through collateral damage. This can significantly improve a patient's daily quality of life — bowel function is much less likely to be affected by scar tissue or ulceration. [Facts About Prostate Cancer (Infographic )]

3. Continual imaging improves precision

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) uses specialized computer software to take continual images of a tumor before and during radiation treatment, which improves the precision and accuracy of the therapy. A tumor can move day by day or shrink during treatment. Tracking a tumor's position in the body each day allows for more accurate targeting and a narrower margin of error when focusing the beam. It is particularly beneficial in the treatment of tumors that are likely to move during treatment, such as those in the lung, and for breast, gastrointestinal, head and neck and prostate cancer. 

In fact, the prostate can move a few millimeters each day depending on the amount of fluid in the bladder and stool or gas in the rectum. Head and neck cancers can shrink significantly during treatment, allowing for the possibility of adaptive planning (changing the beams during treatment), again to minimize long term toxicity and side effects.

4. Lung, liver and spine cancers can now require fewer treatments 

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) offers a newer approach to difficult-to-treat cancers located in the lung, liver and spine. It is a concentrated, high-dose form of radiation that can be delivered very quickly with fewer sessions. Conventional treatment requires 30 radiation treatments daily for about six weeks, compared to SBRT which requires about three to five treatments over the course of only one week. The cancer is treated from a 3D perspective in multiple angles and planes, rather than a few points of contact, so the tumor receives a large dose of radiation, but normal tissue receives much less. By attacking the tumor from many different angles, the dose delivered to the normal tissue (in the path of any one beam) is quite minimal, but when added together from a multitude of beams coming from many different planes, all intersecting inside the tumor, the cancer can be annihilated. 

5. Better access to hard-to-reach tumors

Proton-beam therapy is a type of radiation treatment that uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer. Protons, however, can target the tumor with lower radiation doses to surrounding normal tissues, depending on the location of the tumor. It has been especially effective for replacing surgery in difficult-to-reach areas, treating tumors that don't respond to chemotherapy, or situations where photon-beam therapy will cause too much collateral damage to surrounding tissue. Simply put, the proton (unlike an x-ray) can stop right in the tumor target and give off all its energy without continuing through the rest of the body. One of the more common uses is to treat prostate cancer. Proton therapy is also a good choice for small tumors in areas which are difficult to pinpoint — like the base of the brain — without affecting critical nerves like those for vision or hearing. Perhaps the most exciting application for this treatment approach is with children. Since children are growing and their tissues are rapidly dividing, proton beam radiation has great potential to limit toxicity for those patients. Children who receive protons will be able to maintain more normal neurocognitive function, preserve lung function, cardiac function and fertility. 

While cancer will strike more than 1.6 million Americans in 2015, treatments like these are boosting survival rates. In January 2014, there were nearly 14.5 million American cancer survivors. By January 2024, that number is expected to increase to nearly 19 million

But make no mistake — radiation therapy, one of the most powerful resources used to defeat cancer, is not done yet. As we speak, treatment developments in molecular biology, imaging technology and newer delivery techniques are in the works, and will continue to provide cancer patients with even less invasive treatment down the road.

Source: www.livescience.com

Topics: surgery, physician, innovation, oncology, technology, health, healthcare, nurse, medical, cancer, patients, hospital, medicine, treatments, radiation, chemotherapy, doctor, certified oncologist, oncologist, x-ray

This 19-Year-Old College Student Built an Artificial Brain That Detects Breast Cancer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 10, 2014 @ 01:35 PM

By Elizabeth Kiefer

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Brittany Wenger is one seriously smart cookie. In 2012, the then-17-year-old submitted her "artificial brain" technology -- which assesses tissue samples for breast cancer -- to the Google Science Fair and walked away with the grand prize. It was no wonder: Her invention, which uses a type of computer program called neural networks, can identify complex data patterns and make breast cancer detection calls with 99 percent accuracy. But she's not stopping there: Brittany hopes to help wipe out cancer completely.

Since she took home the gold two years ago, she's been named one of Time's 30 Under 30, given a truly inspiring TED Talk, and launched her app, Cloud4Cancer, which allows doctors to enter their own data and fuel continued cancer research. And did we mention she's also holding down a full course load at Duke University? Um, yeah. 

We recently chatted with Brittany about how she got started, her challenges along the way, and how she balances being a college student with breaking the barriers of cancer diagnostics.

How did you get into computer programming?

When I was in 7th grade I took an elective class on futuristic thinking. When we were assigned our final paper, I decided to write mine on technology of the future. The moment I started researching artificial intelligence and its transcendence into human knowledge, I was inspired. I went out and bought a coding textbook, and taught myself how to code. I remember one of the first projects that I ever worked on was an artificial neural network that taught people how to play soccer.

You're a self-taught coder who went on to create a potentially game-changing cancer detection tool. How did that happen?

Well, it definitely didn't happen overnight. I spent over five years working with neural networks, starting with an entire year of research to try and recognize patterns and connect breast cancer to artificial intelligence. I faced a lot of roadblocks along the way, as this was a very complicated program with no predefined solution. I went through thousands of pages of coding and data that was available through public domains, and performed over 7.6 million test trials. I two failed projects before finally succeeding on my third attempt, taking what didn't work the first few times to optimize the code that helped build the Cloud4Cancer app.

Why did you decide on developing breast cancer detection technology?

When I was 15, my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have a very close-knit family, so seeing the impact that the disease can have on a woman and her family, firsthand, was so real to me. When I learned that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, I knew that I wanted to get involved in making the process better for patients. Now, the coding that I first used to help detect breast cancer has been extended into diagnosing other types of cancers, including blood-based diseases like leukemia.

What's been the most rewarding part of the process?

The people. I've already had the opportunity to work with real patients and breast cancer survivors, as well as talk with kids who are interested in doing research or coding in the future. Knowing that my cloud application has the potential to save lives and expedite the process of discovery is so rewarding. I still get chills thinking about how, a couple of years down the line, my research can actually contribute to finding the cure for cancer.

You've got a lot on your plate these days, between Cloud4Cancer and school. How do you balance everything?

The great thing about where I am with school right now is that my schedule is entirely what I make it. I can attend classes during the week and then travel over some weekends. School is not something that I will ever bend on, as I'm actually going for my MD, PhD in pediatric oncology. At the same time, my initiative is so important to me, I don't want either one to ever outweigh the other. Luckily, I think they complement each other well and what I'm learning in my classes helps me improve Cloud4Cancer.

What's one thing you want other young women to know if they're thinking about going the tech route?

If you're interested, go for it! There have never been so many available resources or opportunities -- for women, and for society as a whole -- to pursue a career in the field. I love how technology allows you to make new things by putting together the little pieces and working towards something bigger that can really benefit the world. There's no greater feeling than solving a problem and seeing your code come to life.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Topics: innovation, artificial intelligence, college student, technology, brain, medical, cancer, detection, breast cancer, app

An Ingestible Pill With Needles Could Be The New Form Of Injection

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Oct 06, 2014 @ 11:25 AM

By Marie Ellis

needle pill

Imagine swallowing a pill with tiny needles instead of getting an injection. Then again, imagine swallowing a pill with tiny needles. It may sound painful, but according to the researchers who developed the novel capsule - which could replace painful injections - there are no harmful side effects.

The researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), have published the results of their study - which tested the microneedle pill in the gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of pigs - in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Though most of us would probably prefer swallowing a pill over having an injection, many drugs cannot be given in pill form because they are broken down in the stomach before being absorbed.

Biopharmaceuticals made from large proteins, such as antibodies - known as "biologics" - are used to treat cancer, arthritis and Crohn's disease, and also include vaccines, recombinant DNA and RNA.

"The large size of these biologic drugs makes them nonabsorbable," explains lead author MIT graduate student Carl Schoellhammer. "And before they even would be absorbed, they're degraded in your GI tract by acids and enzymes that just eat up the molecules and make them inactive."

In an effort to design a capsule that is capable of delivering a wide range of drugs - while preventing degradation and effectively injecting the medicine into the GI tract - Schoellhammer and colleagues constructed the capsule from acrylic, including a reservoir for the drug that is coated with hollow, 5 mm long needles made of stainless steel.

The capsule measures 2 cm long and 1 cm in diameter.

Needle capsule worked safely and effectively in pigs

The team notes that previous studies involving humans who have accidentally swallowed sharp objects have suggested swallowing a capsule coated with short needles could be safe. They explain that there are no pain receptors in the GI tract and that, as a result, patients would not feel any pain.

But to assess whether their capsule could safely and effectively deliver the drugs, the researchers tested the pill in pigs, using insulin in the drug reservoir.

The capsules took more than a week to move through the whole digestive tract, and there were no traces of tissue damage, the researchers say. Additionally, the microneedles effectively injected insulin into the lining of the pigs' stomachs, small intestines and colons, which resulted in their blood glucose levels dropping.

Co-lead author Giovanni Traverso, a research fellow at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and gastroenterologist at MGH, notes that the pigs' reduction in blood glucose was faster and larger than the drop observed from insulin injection.

"The kinetics are much better and much faster-onset than those seen with traditional under-the-skin administration," he says. "For molecules that are particularly difficult to absorb, this would be a way of actually administering them at much higher efficiency."

'Oral delivery of drugs is a major challenge'

Though they used insulin for their tests in pigs, the researchers say they envision their capsule being used to deliver biologics to humans.

"This could be a way that the patient can circumvent the need to have an infusion or subcutaneous administration of a drug," says Traverso.

Prof. Samir Mitragotri, a professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara - who was not involved in the research - says:


"This is a very interesting approach. Oral delivery of drugs is a major challenge, especially for protein drugs. There is tremendous motivation on various fronts for finding other ways to deliver drugs without using the standard needle and syringe."

In terms of future modifications, the team plans to alter the capsule so that contractions of the digestive tract slowly squeeze the drug out of the capsule as it travels through the body, and they also want to make the needles out of degradable polymers and sugar that break off, becoming embedded in the gut lining and slowly disintegrating.

Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: drugs, researchers, innovation, injections, pills, health, healthcare, medicine

How a coral farm in the desert could help 'grow bones'

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Sep 29, 2014 @ 01:17 PM

By Ian Lee

140926172630 coral lab israel entertain feature

 Far from the sea, a man-made coral reef is taking shape -- and it could change medical operations forever.

Step inside the OkCoral lab in Israel's Negev Desert and you'll find row after row of quietly bubbling fish tanks, each containing a precious substance.

It is hoped the coral grown in this surreal "farm," could one day be used in bone operations -- encompassing everything from dental implants to spinal procedures.

Unlike animal and human bones, coral can't be rejected by the body, say medical experts at the company CoreBone, which manufactures bone replacements from coral.

Grown in the lab, this coral is also free from the diseases you might find in the oceanic variety.

Start-up science

Assaf Shaham founded the unusual laboratory six years ago at a cost of $2.5 million, with an ambitious vision of tapping into the billion dollar worldwide bone grafting industry.

But first he'll need the approval of authorities in the European Union and U.S., with a decision expected next year.

The father-of-two's dedication to the business is astounding -- if not a little disconcerting.

"In six years of growing corals, I haven't left these four walls for more than 12 hours -- not even once," he said.

"For me, it's 100% learning as I go. I take the mother colony, and I cut off a branch of the coral with a diamond saw. Then I glue it to another base made out of cement."

The delicate ecosystem needs constant care to ensure the water's salinity, temperature, and chemical make-up is perfect -- any variations and the coral could die.

The fish swimming around each tank are essentially the "worker bees" of the artificial reef. They eat the algae growing on the coral, their feces helps feed the coral, and finally, their movements in the water keep the coral strong.

And much like the traditional canary in the coalmine, if the fish die, you know something's not quite right in the water.

Clever company?

Happily for Shaham, his ambitious experiment appears to be thriving, with coral in the lab growing at ten times the normal rate.

Just a small container of the coral costs roughly $5 to $10 to produce, and sells for around $250.

One of the biggest benefits of the business is its environmental sustainability.

"We have a constant supply," says Ohad Schwartz of company CoreBone.

"We don't have to worry that in several years, harvesting from the sea could be forbidden."

It's a concern they'll never have to think about, when harvesting these remarkable fruits of the desert.

Source: http://www.cnn.com

Topics: innovation, science, bones, coral, labs, man-made, coral reef, bone grafting, nursing, nurses, health care, medical, diseases, operations

MIT Hackathon Aims to Build a Better Breast Pump

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Sep 17, 2014 @ 01:13 PM

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It's the mother of all hackathons — a group of MIT researchers are bringing together engineers, designers, health experts and parents with the goal of building a better breast pump. "We really want to bring the breast pump out of the lactation closet," said Alexis Hope, a research assistant at the MIT Media Lab. "If you talk to moms about something that makes the first part of having a baby miserable, they always say the breast pump. They're loud, they have a million parts, they're impossible to clean, heavy. They're completely impractical for the realities of your life."

In May, a small group from the lab came together to brainstorm, and a blog post about their efforts drew so much interest the organizers — who include four moms — decided to expand. They expect up to 80 people to join forces Sept. 20 and 21 and work all weekend "to make the breast pump not suck." Participants will split into five-person teams and then pitch their prototypes to the group at the end. Hope said it's "just a starting point," but ideally some of the innovations will catch the eye of pump manufacturers.

Half of all new moms in the United States now breastfeed for the six months recommended by pediatricians. Many of them use pumps to produce milk for when they return to work or are away from the baby. Studies have shown breast milk and nursing has health benefits for both the infant and the mother.

Source: http://www.nbcnews.com

Topics: innovation, MIT, breast pump, Hackathon, breast feeding, nursing, healthcare

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