DiversityNursing Blog

Technology Trends Are The Future For Healthcare

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Thu, Mar 15, 2018 @ 11:22 AM

Future-of-Healthcare.jpgWhen it comes to healthcare, technology is not only convenient, but also life-saving. It is also constantly changing. We compiled a list of tech trends you should expect to see in the near future.

telehealth

Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and patients can manage their health care. They can use an online patient portal to see their test results, schedule appointments, request prescription refills or email their doctor. 

Virtual appointments enable them to see their doctor or Nurse via online live video. These appointments let them receive ongoing care when an in-person visit isn't required or possible. These web-based "visits" can also be used for minor illnesses, similar to the services available at a drop-in clinic. 

Health care chat bots

Chat bots can help patients with a number of things such as book appointments, remind them to take their pills or assist them in refilling their prescriptions. Here are a few examples of health care chat bots and what they do.

  • Florence — this chatbot Nurse tells patients to take their medicine, gives them instructions if they forgot to take a pill, monitors their health (and periods for women) and can help them find specialists and book appointments in their area.
  • Your. MD — it replaces the assistant of a GP, asks about symptoms and puts enough questions approved by health professionals to identify a condition probabilistically then sets up appointments, referring patients to physicians.
  • Safedrugbot — this messaging app helps doctors take notice of possible side effects of drugs during breastfeeding and helps to keep mothers safe.
  • Babylon Health — another conversational healthcare assistant with the feature of booking a doctor.
  • SimSensei — still in its experimental phase, it uses voice and face recognition to mimic a therapist, also interacting with the patient at deeper levels.

Smart Beds

Smart beds are continuing to gain popularity. For example, the Stryker S3 bed is a popular acute care/MedSurg that many hospitals use currently. The Stryker safety solution is called iBed. iBed allows the user to set up conditions for the settings on the bed and if the bed is set outside those parameters, visual indicators notify the user that the bed must be put back to the safest condition for that patient. Also, the beds are set up to be wireless, removing the need to remember to plug the bed into the wall and no more damaged 37-pin connectors. The bed is loaded with sensors including weight, brake, rails, and head-of-bed angle. This makes bed related patient safety easy requiring very little upkeep.

Patient and Staff identification systems

Patient and staff identifiers in the hospital setting have become increasingly important in light of patient mix-ups and unauthorized people entering a facility or accessing patient records.

According to an article by Americanmobile.com, "Bar codes, wristbands and radio frequency identification (RFID), all work to track and identify patients in an effort to reduce errors while also keeping the hospital population safe. New palm vein technology, eye scans and microchips have also been introduced as a way to identify both patients and healthcare professionals, and to cut down on unauthorized access to patient files."

Digital Patient Room Whiteboards

Interactive Digital Whiteboards integrate with a hospital’s real-time location services. It provides patients with their daily schedule, introduces staff as they walk into the room and logs which clinicians visited the patient.

According to NewYork-Presbyterian, "patient electronic boards digitize and improve upon traditional whiteboards. Instead of requiring providers to erase and re-write any new information, the boards integrate with the patient’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR) data to display any updates as they happen. Patients and providers can immediately see accurate pain scores, fall risks, and scheduled tests, and family members can see important phone numbers. The boards display data visually wherever possible, including pictures of a patient’s entire care team in real time.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing is another revolutionary step in healthcare, allowing patients and medical professionals to increase accessibility. Without waiting long for a doctor’s appointment, patients can view their health outcomes through the cloud. It is expected that 60% of communication with the healthcare providers and facilities will be done through mobile devices.
 
Patients record filing on paper is outdated and a thing of the past. Doctors and hospitals are now storing patient records on the cloud, allowing patients to access medical records and results 24/7.

Personalized medicine

Precision medicine will become a demand from patients, says Mike Monteiro, Chief Product Officer at Aspire Ventures. "Patients' tolerance for one-size-fits-all diagnoses and therapies is reaching a breaking point, and soon patients will demand that data be taken into account by doctors." 

How do you feel about the impact technology has on healthcare? Do you use any of these in your work place? If so, do you think it positively or negatively effects your work? Please share your comments below! 

Patient and Staff Identification Systems

Topics: medical technology, health care technology

Nurses Will See These 3 Medical Technologies In Their Near Future

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, May 02, 2017 @ 03:06 PM

FutureofMedicine.jpgWith technology consistently evolving, Nurses will see an influx of new advancements throughout the next couple of years. Nurses will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with robot surgery, advanced prosthetics, and virtual reality. 
 
These new medical advancements will allow for more innovative techniques to help you provide the best care. 

Nursing departments are known for their willingness to trial new medical technology. From advanced surgery techniques to virtual reality (VR) systems, nurses get to see cutting-edge technologies before most people even hear about them.

Here are three new advancements nurses will see in the near future:

1. Robot surgery

Today's robots may not look like those popularized in science fiction stories, but they have proven to be very useful. In fact, robots have already proliferated within the nursing field.

One of the most exciting robotic advancements in recent years is the da Vinci robot, a multi-limbed piece of equipment that can perform complicated procedures with fewer invasive cuts than traditional surgical methods.

A trained surgeon is still completely in control of the robot, but because the machine has delicate yet strong appendages, it can cut and stitch within highly confined spaces.

2. Advanced prosthetics

Prosthetics have come a long way since the turn of the century. Today, researchers are developing limbs that can be controlled by the patient's own neural system – exactly as they would control a real appendage.

According to MIT Technology review, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have created a prosthetic arm capable of translating thoughts into simple movements. Currently, the movements are simple, but it is a promising step forward.

Meanwhile, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers are producing a line of powered prosthetic legs to help amputees walk again.

To see these futuristic biomechanical legs in action, check out the video below:

 

 

3. Virtual reality

VR headsets have already made their way into the consumer market, but there's still so much more that researchers can do with the technology. From VR-assisted physical therapy to augmented reality applications, the possibilities of VR medical technology are limitless.

MedicalFuturist explained that VR applications are helping stroke patients recover their motor skills more quickly. By making repetitive exercises more fun, the program increases patient motivation throughout the recovery process.

Nurses in rehabilitation settings are likely to see VR use become more common over the next few years as the technology becomes affordable.

Every day, technological advancements make life a little easier for patients and the professionals who treat them. The above solutions are already in use today and will only become more prevalent as time goes on.

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Topics: medical technology, medical technologies

A Robot Delivers Meds at Dana-Farber

Posted by Pat Magrath

Tue, Oct 25, 2016 @ 12:18 PM

danarobot.jpgTechnology continues to make strides in both our professional and personal lives. This article is about a robot that’s being tested to deliver medication to chemo patients, thus eliminating the step of having to wait in line for medication after a very lengthy day of chemo. This is a new technology being tested at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and patients are enthusiastic about it.
 
There have been a few hiccups, but overall it’s seen as a time saver for patients as well as the pharmacy department. Let us know your thoughts about whether you think this is a good idea.

It’s an unusual sight in the halls of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Alongside doctors, nurses, and patients, a robot about the size of a washing machine quietly glides through the hospital, a bright light marking its presence.

Dana-Farber executives have high hopes for “Lucy,” one of the newest technologies in use at Boston’s best-known cancer center. Lucy is being developed to deliver prescription drugs directly to patients while they sit in infusion rooms receiving chemotherapy — a treatment that can take many hours. If the system works, it will save patients the time and trouble of having to stand in line to pick up their prescriptions at a pharmacy after an already long and draining day of treatment.

“We want Lucy to be able to improve the patient’s experience while they’re here all day,” said Sylvia Bartel, vice president of pharmacy at Dana-Farber. “Their last stop is usually coming to the outpatient pharmacy and picking up a prescription. They finish their chemotherapy, they have to wait in a line, so we felt like there had to be a way for us to efficiently deliver the [medications] using technology.”

Dana-Farber began testing the technology in 2013, after getting a phone call from executives at Vecna Technologies, the Cambridge-based company that developed the robot and was looking to expand its health care business. The Boston cancer center is one of just a few hospitals in the world using the machine.

Lucy is equipped with a touchscreen, a scanner, and compartments for stocking drugs. There is no attempt to give it human features, other than a voice only used occasionally. For now, the robot doesn’t interact with patients, only with hospital staff. It moves drugs around the Longwood area hospital, making about a dozen trips a day, using Wi-Fi-connected software to open doors and use service elevators.

Lucy isn’t glitch-free. It has ended up on the wrong floor before. On one recent afternoon, its movements were halting. Another day, it was out of service because of a connectivity problem.

Even so, Carlos Verrier, business operations manager in Dana-Farber’s pharmacy, said Lucy has helped make the pharmacy more productive. The hospital pharmacy is a busy place, processing some 400 scrips a day.

“It’s really allowing the staff to do more of what they’re trained to do... and not having to take them away to do a delivery,” Verrier said. “They spend more time on clinical aspects of their job than on delivering medication.”

Deborah Theobald, Vecna’s chief executive, said there’s a lot of potential for using such robots to move sensitive items around a hospital. Robots can move potent, expensive drugs around a building more safely and securely than humans, she said. Their every move can be easily tracked.

Vecna’s QC Bot costs roughly $150,000. Theobald acknowledged that hospital executives may need some persuading before they’re ready to give it a try.

“There’s an education process to get them over the hump and see the [return on investment],” she said. “People really appreciate robots once you get over the education hurdle. People don’t want to go back.”

Anne Tonachel, a former patient and current volunteer at Dana-Farber, has seen Lucy moving around the halls and quickly become a fan.

Tonachel is an ovarian cancer survivor who vividly remembers the pain of receiving chemotherapy treatment for many hours at a time. The treatments left her feeling too sick to pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy. Tonachel said she would have loved to skip that step by having a robot deliver prescriptions directly to her.

“No one would mind having Lucy show up at their bed or chair side,” she said. “In fact, her arrival might add a bit of interest to the day and bring a few smiles.”

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Topics: robot, artificial intelligence, Dana-Farber, medical technology

Paraplegics moving again years after injuries

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Aug 15, 2016 @ 04:37 PM

Paraplegics-jpg.jpgBrain training with virtual reality systems and robotic exoskeletons are helping paraplegic patients regain some sensations and possibly mobility. Brain-machine interface is changing diagnoses from complete to partial paralysis.

Researchers have just witnessed something that they say has never before been seen in the field of medicine: Patients who have been severely paralyzed for more than a decade have regained some sensation and neurological control in key muscles.

In other words, they can move again, at least a bit. 

Paraplegic people with spinal cord injuries spent a year training on brain-machine interfaces, such as virtual reality systems and robotic exoskeletons, which allowed them to use their own brain activity to simulate control of their legs, according to a small study published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday

The findings suggest that long-term training on such interfaces that utilize the virtual world could help paraplegic patients regain some sensations and possibly mobility in the real world, said Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a neuroscientist at Duke University who led the study as part of the Walk Again Project in São Paulo, Brazil.

About 282,000 people are living with spinal cord injuries in the United States (PDF). Most of the injuries are a result of traffic accidents, falls or violence, according to the World Health Organization.

"Since I went to medical school, I heard that there was no hope to recover patients with spinal cord injury," Nicolelis said.

"So, I was shocked. I was really shocked, so much that it took us several months to report this because we wanted to confirm every detail," he said of the study findings. "Brain-machine interface, we designed this in the late '90s as a potential technology to assist patients to move, as an assistive technology. We never thought that we would induce neurological recovery in these patients."

The study involved eight paraplegic patients who had been completely paralyzed for at least three years due to spinal cord injuries. They were asked to spend at least two hours a week training on brain-machine interfaces over the course of a year.

How did the brain-machine interfaces work? The patients were fitted with caps lined with electrodes that recorded their brain activity. That brain activity triggered movements or behaviors in virtual reality systems and robotic exoskeletons, such as making the virtual avatar of a patient walk. Then, the interface sent signals back to the brain, such as the sensation of movement, Nicolelis said.

"So you're getting an exoskeleton, and your brain activity is triggering the device to move, and you're getting feedback from the device. You're feeling the ground; you're feeling the legs walking," he said. "If the brain of a paralyzed person is engaged and imagining movements and controlling a device directly and then the brain gets feedback from this device and the body of the patient is moving too, the brain is reinforced. The brain says, 'OK, I'm imagining that I'm moving, and something moved.' "

The researchers conducted clinical evaluations on each patient on the first day of the study and then repeated those evaluations after four, seven, 10 and 12 months.

"After we did this for several months, we tested the patients outside of the [brain-machine interface] device, and to our shock, people who were not supposed to move ever again in their lives were spontaneously moving their legs and feeling sensations," Nicolelis said.
Indeed, the researchers discovered that all of the patients experienced significant improvements in their recoveries. Four improved so much in their sensation and muscle control that their diagnoses were changed from complete to partial paralysis. 

Additionally, many of the subjects reported improvements in their everyday lives. Two became more independent in the bathroom, able to more effectively move from their wheelchairs to the toilet. Another patient reported an improvement in moving from the wheelchair to the car, according to the researchers.

In a separate proof-of-concept study, published last year in the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, scientists in California demonstrated that a brain-computer interface system could be used to allow a paraplegic patient to take steps using nothing but a brain-controlled muscle stimulator.
"The study by Nicolelis and colleagues employs very similar methodologies with the addition of tactile feedback," said Zoran Nenadic, an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Irvine, who led the proof-of-concept research and was not involved in the new study.

"The [new] study presents encouraging findings which demonstrate that a combination of a non-invasive brain-computer interface for restoration of walking and tactile feedback can lead to improvements in both motor and sensory functions in a small group of individuals with paraplegia, or the inability to walk," he said. "This approach could potentially lead to the development of novel physiotherapies for those with complete or incomplete loss of leg function due to spinal cord injury."

The researchers also hope that brain-machine interface devices could be offered as therapy options for paraplegic patients around the world. Seven of the patients in the new study have continued their rehabilitation with brain-machine interface technologies, and the researchers are continuing to document each patient's progress.

"What this suggests is that, in the future, you could go to a rehab center for an hour a day and either do a virtual reality session or get inside of a robotic device and walk back and forth for an hour under the control of your brain," Nicolelis said. "When you get out after this training is done, after months, you basically feel that now you can move your leg. You now have reacquired several functions that you have lost because of these spinal cord injuries."
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Topics: paralysis, paraplegic, medical technology

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

Lives Of Three Babies Rescued By 3D-Printed, Growth-Flexible Implants

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, May 01, 2015 @ 11:46 AM

Written by Markus MacGill

www.medicalnewstoday.com 

kaiba gionfriddo resized 6003D printing has come to the rescue of severe cases of a childhood disease in which the windpipe is softened, leading to collapse of the airway and breathing failure. Previously lacking any adequate intervention, tracheobronchomalacia has found an innovative fix in three babies whose condition presented them with little chance of reaching young childhood.

Researchers at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor say the three boys have become the "first in the world to benefit from groundbreaking 3D-printed devices" to stent their airways in such a way as to allow the supports to keep up with their growth.

A follow-up of all three patients published in the journal Science Translational Medicine shows the personalized bioresorbable splint implants have worked with "promising results."

Pediatric tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) sees excessive collapse of the airways during breathing that can lead to life-threatening cardiopulmonary arrests (halted heart and breathing).

The cartilage supporting the airway can strengthen as children with the condition grow, the study paper goes on to explain, but severe cases of the disease require aggressive treatment - and those children are at "imminent risk of death."

Before this new approach to provide an early treatment option for TBM, the only conventional therapies available also carried life-threatening complications of their own.

Babies needed tracheostomy tube placement with mechanical ventilation, requiring prolonged hospitalization, and complications often led to cardiac and respiratory arrest. For example, the rate of respiratory arrest owing to tube occlusion runs as high as 43% of pediatric tracheostomy procedures a year.

Survivors: Kaiba, Ian and Garrett

But none of the newly developed 3D-printed devices have caused any complications for the three children treated, including Kaiba, who at 3 months old was the first to receive the new technology, 3 years ago. The stents were also inserted into 5-month-old Ian and 16-month-old Garrett.

Designed to accommodate airway growth while preventing external compression over a period of time before bioresorption, the technology allows for the particular problem of radial expansion of the airway over the critical period of growth. "If a child can be supported through the first 24 to 36 months of tracheobronchomalacia, airway growth generally results in a natural resolution of this disease," write the authors.

Senior author Dr. Glenn Green, associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at C.S. Mott, says: "Before this procedure, babies with severe tracheobronchomalacia had little chance of surviving. Today, our first patient Kaiba is an active, healthy 3-year-old in preschool with a bright future." Dr. Green adds:

 

"The device worked better than we could have ever imagined. We have been able to successfully replicate this procedure and have been watching patients closely to see whether the device is doing what it was intended to do.

We found that this treatment continues to prove to be a promising option for children facing this life-threatening condition that has no cure."

 

Dr. Green describes in the video below how he and his colleagues at the University of Michigan worked on finding the solution.


Dr. Green strives enthusiastically for the lives of babies born with the condition, which he says in a post on the hospital's Hail to the little victors blog is often misdiagnosed as treatment-resistant asthma. He adds that it is a rare congenital condition affecting about 1 in 2,200 births, and the severe cases are even rarer, with most children growing out of the milder cases by 2 or 3 years of age.

"Kaiba's parents, April and Bryan, were left watching helplessly each time he stopped breathing, praying that something would change and doctors' predictions that he would never leave the hospital again weren't true," writes Dr. Green in 2013.

The 3D-printed splints were computational image-based designed to be customizable so that the following parameters could be made bespoke to the individual patient's anatomy on "the submillimeter scale:"

  • Inner diameter, length and wall thickness of the device
  • Number and spacing of suture holes.

Not being a closed cylinder, the design of the tubes gave an opening to allow placement but also expansion of the radius as the airways grew. All the inserts placed around the airways were made of polycaprolactone, a polymer that harmlessly dissolves in the body at a rate to allow the technology time to support the growing cartilage.

For Garrett's bespoke device on his left bronchus, the opening had a spiral shape to it, to allow a device to be fitted concurrently around, and grow with, his right bronchus, too.

Freedom from intensive care treatments

The Michigan team also share findings showing that the success of the devices meant the young children were able to come off of ventilators and no longer needed paralytic, narcotic and sedating drugs.

There were improvements in multiple organ systems and problems that had prevented the babies from absorbing food, so now they could be free of intravenous therapy.

The research doctors had received urgent approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to do the procedures, but it is early days for the strategy to become routine for babies with TBM. The case report published today was not designed to test the safety of the devices - so it may yet be possible that rare complications are found to result from treatment in some cases. Dr. Green says:

"The potential of 3D-printed medical devices to improve outcomes for patients is clear, but we need more data to implement this procedure in medical practice."

The specialist surgeon performing the operations, Dr. Richard Ohye, head of pediatric cardiovascular surgery at C.S. Mott, believes the cases provide the groundwork for a potential clinical trial in children with less-severe forms of TBM.


Topics: 3-D printing, medical technology, health, healthcare, children, medical, patients, hospital, patient, treatment, babies, TBM

IdentRx Promises to Prevent Nearly All Medication Errors

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 29, 2015 @ 11:08 AM

www.medgadget.com 

describe the imageMedication errors continue to plague the clinical community and even rare cases of mistakes can make a big splash in the news. And for a good reason: we all expect to be treated than harmed when receiving medical care. A new device is currently in the third round of pilot testing, including at major retail pharmacies and Purdue University, that may help avoid prescription errors altogether. The IdentRx system from PerceptiMed, a Mountain View, California firm, optically analyzes every single pill that will be given to a patient to make sure it precisely matches each prescription.

It is the only device that visually inspects each pill, recognizing the manufacturer imprints on them all. The system confirms that the pills themselves, and not only the container bottles, match the issued prescriptions, hopefully preventing errors just before the pills are handed to the patients.

Topics: medical technology, prescription, medication errors, technology, health, healthcare, medication, medical, patients, medicine, patient

Drug Testing Using 'Heart-On-A-Chip' Steps Closer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Mar 11, 2015 @ 02:43 PM

Catharine Paddock PhD

heart on a chip resized 600

Drug development is a costly and lengthy business, not helped by the fact there is a high failure rate in drug testing due to the reliance on animal models. Animal biology is not an ideal substitute for human biology, but until something better comes along, it is all we have. Now, a new study suggests the organ-on-a-chip method may offer a more ideal model.

Study leader Kevin Healy, a bioengineering professor at the University of California-Berkeley, says:

"It takes about $5 billion on average to develop a drug, and 60% of that figure comes from upfront costs in the research and development phase. Using a well-designed model of a human organ could significantly cut the cost and time of bringing a new drug to market."

As around one third of the candidate drugs that are ditched are those that seem to have a bad effect on the heart, Prof. Healy and colleagues decided to design a model based on the human heart.

They conclude that their work is a major step forward in the development of faster, more accurate ways of testing drug safety. Prof. Healy believes that:

"Ultimately, these chips could replace the use of animals to screen drugs for safety and efficacy."

In their study, they describe how they devised the model and tested it with cardiovascular medications.

'Heart-on-a-chip' contains a network of pulsating cardiac muscle cells

The human heart model that Prof. Healy and colleagues devised is a "heart-on-a-chip" comprising an inch-long silicone device with a thin network of pulsating cardiac muscle cells.

In the journal Scientific Reports, the team says their heart-on-a-chip - which they call a "cardiac microphysiological system (MPS)" - is an ideal tool for testing toxic side effects of new drugs on the human heart because it ticks four important boxes:

  1. It uses cells that have human genes
  2. The cells are aligned in a way that reflects the structure of human heart tissue
  3. It mimics the dynamics of blood flow in heart tissue
  4. It can be used for biological, electrophysiological and physiological analysis.

The authors note that using animal models to predict human reactions to drugs often fail because of fundamental differences in biology between species. For example, the ion channels that conduct the electrical pulses that heart cells send out can vary in number and type between animals and humans.

"Many cardiovascular drugs target those channels, so these differences often result in inefficient and costly experiments that do not provide accurate answers about the toxicity of a drug in humans," Prof. Healy explains.

Device is populated with heart cells made from human-induced pluripotent stem cells

The heart-on-a-chip is made of heart cells generated from human-induced pluripotent stem cells - the adult stem cells that can be coaxed to differentiate into various types of tissue.

The heart-on-a-chip has a 3D geometry and spacing that is comparable to that of connective tissue fiber in a human heart. The researchers then populated this with layers of differentiated heart cells, which in the confined geometry were forced to align in one direction.

Microfluidic channels on either side of the cell-populated area perform like blood vessels and mimic the same dynamics of nutrients and drugs diffusing from blood vessels into human tissue.

Such a setup could also serve as a model of how the cells get rid of their waste products, note the authors.

Lead author Dr. Anurag Mathur, a postdoctoral scholar in Healy's lab and a fellow of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, explains:

"This system is not a simple cell culture where tissue is being bathed in a static bath of liquid. We designed this system so that it is dynamic; it replicates how tissue in our bodies actually gets exposed to nutrients and drugs."

Heart-on-a-chip tested with four drugs and reacted as expected

The authors explain how within 24 hours of populating the device with heart cells, the engineered heart tissue was beating on its own at the normal rate of 55-80 beats per minute.

The team tested four well-known cardiovascular drugs on the device: isoproterenol, E-4031, verapamil and metoprolol. They used changes in the pulse rate of the tissue to measure the response to the drugs.

The changes in pulse rate were as expected for the drugs. For example, after half an hour of being exposed to isoproterenol - a drug used to treat slow heart rate, or bradycardia - the pulse rate of the heart-on-a-chip increased from 55 to 124 beats per minute.

Multi-organ testing devices could have hundreds of microphysiological cell systems

The engineered tissue remained viable and worked for several weeks. Such a timescale is sufficient for testing several different drugs, Prof. Healy says.

He and his colleagues are now investigating whether the method can be used to model multi-organ interactions. Prof. Healy notes:

"Linking heart and liver tissue would allow us to determine whether a drug that initially works fine in the heart might later be metabolized by the liver in a way that would be toxic."

The team anticipates the "widespread adoption" of organ-on-a-chip for drug screening and disease modeling and foresee devices containing hundreds of microphysiological cell systems. 

The project is funded through the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening Initiative, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

In October 2014, Medical News Today learned how the University of Kansas is leading the development of a  lab-on-a-chip that promises to detect lung cancer - and possibly other deadly cancers - much earlier. That method, which only uses a small drop of a patient's blood, is also based on microfluid technology. It analyzes the contents of exosomes - tiny bags of molecules that cells release now and again.

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: health, healthcare, medical technology, cardiac, device, heart, drug testing

University of Missouri Nurse Helps Improve Hearing Aid Use

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 02, 2015 @ 02:29 PM

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A University of Missouri nurse researcher is working to ensure people who use hearing aids for the first time are not bombarded by sounds that could be overwhelming and potentially painful. 

Individuals who wear hearing aids for the first time can potentially hear sounds they have not heard in months of even years, according to a University of Missouri news release on the research. The study, published online Dec. 17, in the journal Clinical Nursing Research, looked at the feasibility and initial effect of Hearing Aid Reintroduction to assist people 70 to 85 years old to adjust to hearing aids.

Some of the noises hearing aids enable their users to hear are not always easy to embrace, researchers found. These include air conditioners, wind and background conversations which can be annoying, painful and tough to ignore, the release said.

Kari Lane, PhD, RN, MOT, assistant professor of nursing at MU Sinclair School of Nursing, studied a group of elderly adults’ satisfaction with hearing aids after participating in HEAR, according to the release. Study participants recorded the total time they wore hearing aids for 30 days. Participants gradually increased the amount of time they wore the hearing aids and the variety and complexity of sounds they experienced, including household appliances or sounds from crowded areas, the release said. 

“Hearing loss is a common health problem facing many aging adults that can have serious effects on their quality of life, including heightened chances of depression and dementia,” Lane said in the release. “Hearing aids are not an easy fix to hearing loss. Unlike glasses, which provide instant results, it takes more time for the brains of hearing-aid users to fully adjust to the aids and new sounds they could not hear before.”

All participants at the start of the research reported being unsatisfied with their hearing aids, Lane said. At the end of the study, more than half of participants reported being able to increase their hearing aid use and 60% of them said they were satisfied with their hearing aids, the release stated. 

“It is common practice for audiologists to have their patients wear hearing aids all day when they first buy them, but not all persons are able to do this comfortably,” Lane said in the release. “Prior research shows there is a need for alternative ways to teach people how to use hearing aids like the HEAR intervention, which allows hearing-aid users to gradually adjust to using the aids while receiving support and coaching from health professionals and family members.”

Healthcare providers should give patients guidance on conditions they might experience during the aging process, such as hearing loss, according to the release. Such proaction could help to reduce the stigma surrounding hearing aids, Lane said. 

“If healthcare professionals begin discussing hearing loss with their patients sooner, before problems arise, the use of hearing aids could be normalized, and individuals would be better prepared for the transition when it is time for them to begin use,” Lane said in the release. 

Source: http://news.nurse.com

Topics: health, healthcare, technology, medical technology, patient, nurse, nursing, hearing, hearing loss, aid

'Bionic' Eye Allows Man To See Wife For First Time In A Decade

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 02, 2015 @ 01:54 PM

 James McIntosh

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A blind man is now able to see objects and people again, including his wife and family, for the first time in a decade. How? With the help of a bionic eye implant. 

Affected by a degenerative condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, Allen Zderad was effectively blind, unable to see anything but a bright light. As the condition has no cure, Zderad, from Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN, was forced to quit his professional career. 

He made adjustments to his lifestyle and was able to continue woodworking through his sense of touch and spatial awareness. However, with the help of his new retinal prosthesis, Zderad is now able to make out the outlines of objects and people, and could even register his reflection in a window.

"I would like to say I think he's a remarkable man, when you consider what he's overcome in dealing with his visual disability," says Dr. Raymond Iezzi Jr., an ophthalmologist from the Mayo Clinic. "To be able to have offered him the retinal prosthesis to enhance what he can already do was a great honor for me." 

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited condition that causes the degeneration of specific cells in the retina called photoreceptors. The disease can cause some people to lose their entire vision. Mr. Zderad's grandson has the disease in its early stages and, after seeing him, Dr. Iezzi asked if he could meet his grandfather.

The eye implant that Zderad now has works by bypassing the damaged retina and sending light wave signals directly to the optic nerve. A small chip was attached to the back of the eye with multiple electrodes offering 60 points of stimulation.

'Not like any form of vision that he's had before'

Wires from the device on the retinal surface connect to a pair of glasses worn by Mr. Zderad. The glasses have a camera at the bridge of the nose that relay images to a small computer worn in a belt pack. These images are then processed and transmitted as visual information to the implant which in turn interprets them, passing them on to the retina and eventually the brain. 

"Mr. Zderad is experiencing what we call artificial vision," explains Dr. Iezzi. "It's not like any form of vision that he's had before. He's receiving pulses of electrical signal that are going on to his retina and those are producing small flashes of light called electro-phosphenes. These small flashes of light are sort of like the points of light on a scoreboard at a baseball game."

There are only 60 of these flashes of light, but it is enough for Zderad to reconstruct scenes and objects. Although he will not be able to see the details of faces or read, Mr. Zderad will now be able to navigate through crowded environments without the use of a cane, significantly improving his quality of life.

Dr. Iezzi would like to see the technology expanded to patients who have lost the use of their eyes, such as wounded soldiers or people with advanced diabetes or glaucoma.

"In addition, while Mr. Zderad has 60 points of stimulation, if we were able to increase that number to several hundred points of stimulation, I think we could extend the technology so that patients could recognize faces and perhaps even read," he concludes. 

"It's crude, but it's significant," said Zderad happily, as he first used the device. "It'll work."

Zderad will now be able to see his family again, including his 10 grandchildren and his wife, Carmen. And how does he distinguish her, having not seen her for a decade? "It's easy," says Zderad, "she's the most beautiful one in the room."

At the end of last year, Medical News Today reported on the story of a woman with quadriplegia who is now able to use her mind to move a robotic arm, demonstrating "10° brain control" of the prosthetic.

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: health, healthcare, technology, hospital, medical technology, patient, blind, bionic eye, clinic, retinitis pigmentosa, ophthalmologist, implant, senior, nerve, optic nerve

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