PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

We bring you the most stimulating and exciting stories from the world of wellness research.

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a snapshot of Ten Innovative Ideas each week that are reshaping the health care industry. Continue reading below for the most exciting ideas from the past seven days.

QR Code-Enabled Condoms To Let Users Check-In When Having ‘Safe Sex’
In an effort to promote safe sex practices, US-based sexual and reproductive health care organization, Planned Parenthood, passed out free condoms with QR codes on the packaging to enable people to share their responsible behaviors as part of its “Where Did You Wear It?” campaign. By scanning the codes, users were directed to a page where they could share basic personal information such as age and sex and check-in to an interactive world map, which showed the approximate location of the couples. Not only was the campaign playful and positive, but it also provides valuable data to the organization about who their message is reaching, perhaps helping them to design more effective marketing. So far, all 50 states and six continents have reported check-ins.

New Pacemaker Receives Its Power From The Human Heart
Aerospace engineering researchers at the University of Michigan have designed a prototype pacemaker that receives its power from the heart’s vibrations, an advance that could eradicate the need for costly, stressful pacemaker battery replacement surgeries, which must typically be conducted every five to ten years. While still in the early stage of development, the scientists describe the device as harvesting the heart’s vibrations through a hundredth-of-an-inch thin slice of piezoelectric ceramic material, which briefly expands in response to the heartbeat. The material then converts this stress into voltage. Early tests show that the device is capable of generating 10 microwatts of power, which is about eight times the amount a pacemaker needs to operate.

Patients Customize And Control Their Hospital Environment Through An iPad
Medical diagnostics developer PDC has developed the Caring MR Suite, a hospital room with a customizable set of features that can be controlled through an iPad, helping patients feel more comfortable during their MRI scans. Patients can choose from a number of pre-programmed settings, personalizing their surroundings with lighting, images, video and music, with an option to play their own music through a docking device for an iPhone or iPod. The suite includes special LED lighting fixtures and image panels that are installed in the walls and ceiling of MRI scan rooms. The goal of the project is to help reduce the anxiety that many experience in clinical settings.

New Mobile Phone Scanner Can Tell You If That Plate Of Leftovers Is Still Safe To Eat
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have designed a scanner that fits over the camera of a feature phone to detect the presence of small amounts of E. coli in liquid samples. The device consists of glass capillary tubes, which can be filled with liquid, and LED lights on positioned on either end. The lights excite any E. coli bacteria that are present, causing them to emit fluorescent light. The light emission is captured by the phone camera as pictures of the capillaries are taken approximately once a second. The team tested the device using water samples and milk and were able to selectively detect low concentrations of E. coli, even in the presence of other bacteria species. The device offers a cost-effective alternative to existing techniques, with hopes for curtailing the spread of food-borne illnesses in the developing world.

Bio-Engineering Technique Jumpstarts New Tissue Growth In Spinal Cord Injuries, Offers Hope In The Treatment Of Paralysis
A doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has developed a new method for delivering drugs directly to an injury site and jumpstarting the process of tissue regeneration. His innovation could be an important new tool in preventing paralysis resulting from spinal cord trauma, cancer, diabetes, or a host of other diseases. The new technique disperses nanoscopic electrospun fibers, which can prompt and guide tissue regeneration, within injectable, drug-infused hydrogels. The result is an advanced biomaterial that can mimic and serve as a temporary replacement for living tissue. The complex system not only delivers multiple drugs, but also carries the necessary cues to guide nerve cells through the injury site and stimulate the process of regeneration.

Miniature Pressure Sensors Enhance a Doctor’s Human Touch
Biomedical engineers at UC Davis have developed flexible, transparent pressure sensors that use a drop of liquid to act as a variable capacitor for managing electrical current, which has implications for various medical applications. The team employed the biosensor to successfully measure the pulse in the human neck. The sensor also could be used in ‘smart gloves’ giving physicians an enhanced ability to measure the firmness of tissues and detect tumors, and in ‘smart contact lenses’ to monitor intraocular pressure without affecting vision.

Pharma Company Gamifies Its Reseach Through A Crowdsourced Competition
Pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim is looking to create a model that can help scientists accurately predict the biological response of molecules. For assistance, it’s turning to an online science community by partnering with Kaggle. The crowd-sourced competition asks participants to come up with an algorithm that can predict a biological endpoint to a molecule by only knowing its structure and composition. Contributors have until 15 June, 2012, to come up with a working model and share a prize pool of $20,000. Kaggle gamifies science and has already successfully helped companies and researchers solve problems through holding competitions with cash incentives.

Startup Hopes To One Day Print Out Personalized, Internal Organs On-Demand
Organovo is a California-based startup that has developed a bioprinting technique which is capable of creating human tissue from any initial cell source. Unlike other experimental organic ink-jet like printers, Organovo’s printer deposits lines of cells closely together in a gel culture, where they are allowed to grow and interconnect much like they would in the body. In the case of muscle tissue, they will orient themselves in the same direction to allow for contractions of the tissue. The company hopes to one day build entire organs for transplants, and because the tissue is able to be built from a patient’s own cells, the risk of rejection would be very low.

iPad Simulator App Helps Train Medical Students To Rapidly Respond To Changes In Patient Vitals
Australian company iSimulate has developed a medical training simulation app called ALSi that uses a connected pair of Apple iPads to help monitor how a student reacts to rapid changes in a virtual patient’s vital signs. One iPad is controlled by an instructor, who can create different scenarios in real-time, setting complex physiological parameters, arrhythmias and waveforms. The other iPad serves as a digital cardiac monitor/defibrillator, which prompts the students to quickly respond with an appropriate action. The software program is designed to work as a standalone or be used in conjunction with a mannequin or live patient.

Smart Restaurant Concept In Japan Helps Diners Control Portion Size, Slow Down And Enjoy Their Meals
Japanese health device manufacturer Tanita Corp has developed a dining concept called Tanita Shokudo that aims to bring nutritional advice directly to people’s tables. Each table is outfitted with a scale to ensure that healthy portions can be measured out, while a timer tells the diner when the optimum duration of 20 minutes for completing their lunch has been met. Professional dietitians are also on hand to provide free advice on eating regimes in a special counseling room. The concept was successful enough when trialed in the company’s cafeteria that Tanita Corp plans to launch the idea to the public. Lunch options come from the company’s successful cookbook, which first introduced Japanese food lovers to healthy set meals of 500 calories or less. PSFK has partnered with 

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a steady stream of inspiring news and ideas in the health and wellness space. Once each week, we will be posting an article on PSFK.com. If you would like to gain access to the full stream of content, please check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page, where they are publishing a regular stream of inspiring and informative content.

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