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.
Engineers at the Monash Vision Group (MVG) of Monash University in Australia have successfully tested a new microchip that will be used to power a bionic eye, which is expected to be ready for patient testing within the next few years. Unlike many other bionic eye/retinal implant projects currently in development, MVG’s bionic eye bypasses the actual eye altogether, instead consisting of a special pair of glasses with a tiny camera that serves as a retina, and a pocket-worn processor designed for converting recorded video into electrical signals. Microchips are implanted directly on the surface of the patient’s visual cortex, which receive low resolution black and white video that will serve to stimulate the visual cortex. The engineers behind the project hope to produce artificial vision that is at least equivalent to using a seeing eye dog or cane.
Doctor Zibin Guo of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga has altered the traditional Chinese martial and healing arts practice, Tai Chi, in a program developed for wheelchair users called 13 Posture Wheelchair Tai Chi. Integrating wheelchair motions with 13 of the 24 Tai Chi movements, the practice is executed sitting down and provides a low-impact, simple-to-learn, upper-body exercise featuring Tai Chi’s signature dynamic flowing motions. Relating to the wheelchair as much more than an assistive device, practitioners of 13 Posture Wheelchair Tai Chi experience their chairs as tools of empowerment and a source of fitness and artistic expression.
The Telepresence Puppet is a telemedicine platform that allows doctors to interact with patients without being physically present. Created by the Singapore-based start-up Ctrl Works, the mobile robot features a touchscreen LCD display, camera, microphone, speaker, zoom options and WiFi connectivity. Doctors can control the pedestal-mounted display from a remote location, adjusting camera direction and the robot’s positioning to best view patients. Particularly beneficial in regions with low doctor-to-patient ratios, the device cuts down on doctor traveling requirements and frees doctor’s assistants from note taking and data input, allowing more time and attention to be directed to care-oriented activities.
Scientists at Northwestern University have successfully developed a nanoparticle treatment that delivers cancer-fighting drugs directly to a cancer cell’s nucleus. The star-shaped, drug filled nanoparticles are made from gold and are attracted to proteins on cancer cells’ surfaces, cellular elements that naturally shuttle the nanoparticles to cell nuclei. Once the nanostars are positioned at the edge of the nucleus, researchers direct ultrafast pulses of light at the cells, allowing the nanostars to enter the nuclei and release the drug at the most effective target possible. The drug-delivery method could be particularly helpful in cases where tumors are close to the skin’s surface, as well as eradicating stray cancer cells in surrounding tissue after cancerous tumors have been removed.
As the cost of sequencing the human genome is falling, startups and health programs are exploring new ways to make use of an increased pool of data to more effectively treat and diagnose disease. Entrepreneur Dr. Dietrich Stephan of Navigenics, a biotech company, has joined the Gene Partnership Initiative at Boston’s Children’s Hospital to gather genetic information about disease. Having already sequenced the genomes of 100,000 young patients, Stephan’s efforts are identifying new ways to diagnose sick people earlier and seeding treatment innovation that mitigates core defects. As genome sequencing moves into the mass market, customized approaches to medicine will be possible, enabling people to live longer and healthier lives.
Researchers at Chicago’s Northwestern University have discovered that they could bypass a test subject’s ‘severed’ spinal cord and enable users to control body movements by implanting electrodes in their brains. To begin, two monkeys had electrodes implanted in their brains and then were injected with an anesthetic into their arms, in effect, rendering their limbs paralyzed. When researchers activated the monkeys’ brain electrodes, each one was able to use their limbs to grab and throw a ball. The innovation is hoped to one day allow paralyzed patients to control their body movements just by thinking about the action.
NeedToEat is a diet and exercise tracking mobile application that uses real-life factors such as mood, habits, and personal preferences to help keep users on a healthy lifestyle regimen. Instead of strict meal plans, NeedToEat offers alternatives based on factors like mood and personal habits. The app works by tracking what a user eats and how much they exercise while also taking into account a user’s vices which could negatively impact their healthy living plan. For example, after a night out drinking, the app will help the user compensate by suggesting a less-caloric meal or more rigorous day of exercise.
Wireless service provider GreatCall has launched a subscription-based iPhone app that connects patients with care providers in real-time. The app, LiveNurse, offers users ‘one touch’ access to speak with a registered nurses at any time during the week and includes a medical library and symptom navigator tool. Nurses are available to speak with patients anytime without an appointment, and the app also lets users search for their symptoms by body part or keyword. The app additionally features a “Shake for Help” feature that enables confused app users to simply shake their phone to receive a help bubble that explains how that particular screen of the app works.
Jerry the Bear is a teddy bear that features insulin injection sites and a glucose-level monitoring display so that kids can learn about managing their diabetes by helping to maintain the bear’s virtual health. Developed by students at Northwestern University as a Design for America project, the robotic teddy bear is equipped with a toy injection pen that kids can use to learn about the importance of regular insulin injections and allow them to practice giving them. To simulate the effects of low blood sugar, the bear’s eyelids become droopy when its levels get low. This corresponds with adisplay on its chest that indicates its blood glucose level.
Ekso Bionics has created a wearable robotic exoskeleton technology that can augment human capabilities and help paraplegics get up and walk away from their wheelchairs. The robotic exoskeleton has a basic anthropomorphic design that slips on and off the body in minutes and can re-calibrate a wide range of human movements. Though the technology is being marketed to rehabilitation centers throughout the US, the exoskeleton is equipped with software that will eventually adapt to any task that would benefit from mechanically assisted strength and endurance, from helping stroke victims relearning to walk to assisting builders carrying heavy materials.
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.