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.

Is Your Environment Making You Sick?
Inspired by a personal experience with a heart attack potentially affected by a lifelong exposure to pollutants, geographic information systems (GIS) software developer Bill Davenhall has developed new methods of mapping environmental conditions to explore correlations with health risks and mortality data. By mapping pollutants like industrial emissions and smog alongside health risks including heart attacks and cancer, resultant maps frame health in a geographical context for individuals, caregivers, public health officials, city planners and NGOs. Maps can be zoomed in to provide a geographically enhanced medical history for a particular patient or zoomed out to provide detail-rich insight into the health of a community.

Neuroprosthesis Restores Hand Movement In Paralyzed Monkeys
Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a neuroprosthesis that was able to restore complex movement in the hands of paralyzed monkeys. After implanting an electrical signal capturing device directly into the brains of the monkeys, the scientists were able to detect the signals that generate arm and hand movements. These signals were analyzed by a computer algorithm and relayed to a functional electrical stimulation (FES) device, which then was used by the scientists to bypass the monkey’s spinal cord to deliver an electrical current to its paralyzed muscles. With a lag time of just 40 milliseconds, the system enabled voluntary and complex movement of the monkey’s paralyzed hand.

Model Replicates Functioning Circulatory System For Practicing Brain Surgery
Researchers at Japan’s Fuyo and Saitama Medical University International Medical Centers have developed an artificial model that simulates the functioning of cerebral blood vessels so that doctors can develop the skills required to perform operations on the brain. The Cybernetic Brain Artery Model is a life sized, plastic body that contains a series of plastic tubes which mimic arteries and blood vessels and can simulate blood flow and pressure in the body. Using a touchscreen panel, surgeons can control everything from blood pressure to heart rate in order to simulate different surgical procedures and scenarios. Using the panel, surgeons can recreate tumors and brain aneurysms to help students refine surgeons’ skills without ever risking patients’ lives.

Virus Could Help A Broken Heart Mend Itself
Researchers from Duke University Medical Center successfully demonstrated a procedure that regenerated scarred heart tissue into healthy muscle tissue. By injecting a virus carrying four different molecular control switches known as microRNAs into a mouse’s damaged heart, the researchers were able to induce cells in scar tissue to change roles and turn into healthy, functioning heart muscle. In theory, the technique could translate into similar microRNAs being given to patients after a heart attack so that their cardiac muscle could regenerate, thereby reducing the risk of future heart failure.

App Lets Kids Plan Their Lunches And Teaches Good Nutrition
LaLa Lunchbox is an iPhone application designed for kids that involves them in the planning of their own lunchtime meals, while teaching them how to build balanced, nutritional meals in the process. After creating a personal avatar, users select food items from weekly menus and generate an ongoing list for parents to include in their weekly grocery shopping. Each meal within the application requires at least one fruit, vegetable and food high in protein to be selected, giving children a visually stimulating platform on which to design their own healthy meals.

Free Online Tool Makes Bill Payment And Benefits Policies Easier To Navigate
Simplee is a free online tool that helps consumers track, review, and pay medical claims and bills online. The service works by categorizing and explaining medical, dental, vision and pharmacy expenses in plain, easy to follow language, as well as by providing users with medical benefit alerts, payment reminders, deductible updates and access to electronic bill payment across thousands of medical providers covered by 80% of insurers in the U.S. market. Since its inception in 2011, the platform has managed nearly a half a billion dollars in medical expenses, helping users manage an average of $1,000 in medical costs per year. The service is intended to help users simplify bill payment and better manage health plans in a characteristically complex and expensive system.

Portable Device Tests Food And Drink For Any Poison
Researchers at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a device called Dip Chip hat checks for toxic substances in food and drink. Mimicking what happens when toxic elements are introduced into living organisms, the device’s genetically modified microbes produce a biochemical reaction when exposed to toxic materials. The reaction is converted into an electrical signal which is then analyzed and translated into a “toxic” or “non-toxic” diagnosis. Testing broadly for anything that’s toxic rather than one poison at a time, Dip Chip can be used to detect any type of poisonous substance, even poisons unidentified thus far. Results are delivered immediately, improving upon methods that require time and resource consuming lab analysis.

Emerging Voucher Websites Lessen Cost Barriers To Filling Prescriptions
The My Coupon Doc is a website that allows consumers to search for coupons as indexed by medication and illness. Visitors can type in an ailment like “migraine” and be connected to coupons for drugs that treat migraine headaches and then use the platform to compare options side-by-side. After selecting a medication, consumers are given a brief description of the drug in layman’s terms, and are redirected to the pharmaceutical company’s website to redeem their discount. Nearly half of Americans use prescription drugs (48%), but nearly one in seven under the age of 65 claim to have not filled a prescription because they could not afford it, even when supported by medical insurance.

First Responders Scan QR Codes To Obtain Health Information
Medical information management company Lifesquare is producing QR codes that contain personalized medical information for first responders to scan during medical emergencies. Marin county residents can upload medical information and link it to a QR code through the Lifesquare website, receiving stickers which they can place anywhere, such as helmets, in their car or on their person. Care providers can scan the codes with an iPhone and see a patient’s allergies, current medications and existing conditions, while maintaining a patient’s privacy at all other times. Marin county believes this will improve first responders overall time and efficiency; they eventually hope to be able to seamlessly transfer the patient information between care providers.

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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