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.
Researchers Develop Mind-Controlled Robot
A team of Israeli researchers at the Advanced Virtuality Lab discovered that they are able to control a robot with only a person’s thoughts. Since a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine detects changes in blood flow to measure brain activity in real time, it can differentiate between the activity patterns created when one thinks about turning left versus turning right. In the experiment, a researcher in an fMRI machine located in Israel thought about different movements—walk straight, turn left, or turn right—and a robot in France (1,000 km away) performed those actions based only on the guidance of the researcher’s thoughts. Because fMRI technology is so accurate, this method of brain control is easier to use than others and require no other implant or device. Although the goal of this project was to facilitate patients with physical disabilities to control robotic systems, this technology could enable a number of new innovations.
Collaboration Is The New Norm In Science
Seattle-based scientist and entrepreneur Stephen Friend created the organization Sage Bionetworks in an effort to change the status quo of the regime and process of drug discovery, as well as stimulate collaboration in the biomedical sciences community. Through his organization, Friend is working to establish a set principles, practices, and incentives that will change the way biomedical research and drug discovery are conducted. Since current approaches to developing new drug therapies rely too heavily on “Eureka” moments by clinicians, according to Friend, “we have an important opportunity as a field to design new ways of working for better and faster results by using the networked team approaches that have propelled software engineers and physicists, who have excelled at doing large-scale projects, sharing efforts before publication.” This cultural and technological shift in the biomedical sciences would change the way data is used, and allow researchers to build on each other’s work in real time.
Online Community Helps Users Jointly Care For Loved Ones
The new, UK-based platform Cura allows family and friends to share the tasks surrounding care of a loved one. Caring for a sick or elderly loved one can be cumbersome, and without hiring a paid professional, enlisting help can be difficult. However, Cura users can alleviate this stress by creating a free and secure online community to coordinate schedules and tasks pertaining to the care of a loved one. The platform allows group members to instantly see and sign up for tasks with which they can lend a hand, and therefore, allows family and friends to collectively provide the care these individuals need – without the burden of repeated information and communication gaps among caregivers.
‘Kickstarter’ For Health And Medical Crowd-Funding Launches
Following the example set by Kickstarter, Medstartr is a crowdfunding platform for health and medical innovations. Kickstarter officially does not allow medical- and health-related projects to use its platform, and recently denied several projects on those grounds. Alex Fair founded MedStartr after the application for his startup FairCareMD–an online marketplace for patients and healthcare providers to meet and agree on fair prices–was rejected by Kickstarter. Medstartr offers an advantage over other sites that are not health-related because it understands healthcare and will help its projects succeed. Additionally, Medstartr is partnering with the markers of Pebble smart watch (Kickstarter’s $10 million poster child) to launch an incentive program for health projects to make use of the platform.
Get A Workout Playing Popular XBox Live Games With Kinect PlayFit
Kinect PlayFit, a new fitness dashboard for the Xbox Live, is the first application for fitness tracking on a video game console. PlayFit tracks the calories users burn while playing various Kinect games and allows users to view personal stats over time and see how they rank against gamers across the globe. With social features that include activity challenges, rankings, leaderboards, and Xbox Live community integration, the PlayFit uses friendly competition to motivate users to be physically active. The application is currently a free download for all US-based Xbox Live members and will soon expand internationally.
The Latest Hearing Aid? Transmitting Sound Through Your Teeth
The SoundBite system, which transmits sounds wirelessly through a patient’s teeth, allows people who are completely deaf in one ear to hear. This hearing system relies on the ability of sound waves to travel from teeth through bones in the skull. In order to capture incoming sounds, a tiny microphone and processor in the deaf ear transmit the signals wirelessly to a receiver located over the patient’s rear molars. The sound waves then travel through the teeth and skull into the functioning cochlea of the other ear, which sends the signals to the brain for interpretation. The device is not visible on the patient and is less expensive than the other option of a bone-anchored hearing aid, which requires a titanium device to be surgically implanted in the bone behind the patient’s deaf ear. Unlike traditional hearing aids, which only amplify sound in frequencies where the patient’s hearing is diminished, the SoundBite appeals to those who—often as a result of a damaged cochlea, the spiral-shaped structure of the inner ear—are completely deaf in one ear.
Could Doctors Implant Microscopic ‘Factories’ To Deliver Drugs Locally To Disease Sites?
According to research reported in the American Chemical Society’s journal Nano Letters, microscopic “factories” running on “DNA and other biological machinery” can be implanted into the body to deliver drugs – locally – to specific disease sites. Similar to the mechanisms of living cells, these nanoscale spheres of biological protein-making machinery are genetically encoded instructions and components needed for protein synthesis. Since this system can internally manufacture and locally deliver drugs, it could be used to dispatch therapies that would otherwise be harmful to healthy tissue if circulated through the blood stream.
New Molecule Makes Teeth Cavity-Proof
Researchers at Yale University and Universidad de Santiago, Chile discovered a new molecule that – by killing the Streptococcus Mutans bacteria that produces cavities – can make teeth cavity-proof. Named “Keep 32” (humans each have 32 teeth), the molecule can be added to any dental product and, in as few as 60 seconds, will protect against cavities for several hours. The patent owners of Keep 32 are aiming to launch the product in 14 to 18 months and plan to license the patent to dental care and candy manufacturers.
Phone Call Could Help Researchers Diagnose Parkinson’s
Max Little of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab has developed a speech-recognition algorithm that can diagnose Parkinson’s disease over the phone. The ‘Parkinson’s Voice Initiative’ lists phone numbers for people to call the computerized diagnostic system. Current methods for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease rely on a time consuming, standardized test in which patients test their motor skills in a clinical setting. The software leverages a speech-processing algorithm to identify phonetic signs of the disease, including quavers in the voice, soft speech and breathiness, which are indicators the disease has taken hold. The algorithm has managed to diagnose Parkinson’s speech markers 99 per cent of the time in the lab.
Suit Lets Medical Students Experience Symptoms Of Old Age
A team of German scientists at Berlin’s Evangelical Geriatrics Centre have developed a wearable suit that simulates the symptoms of old age and to instill empathy in medical students considering a career in geriatric care. The ‘Age Man Suit’ envelops its wearer from head to toe and is designed to simulate the sensory distortions of old age, featuring ear protectors that stifle hearing and a visor to blur vision. The suit also mimics the physical consequences of old age, equipped with knee and elbow pads to stiffen joints, a kevlar vest pressing uncomfortably against the wearer’s chest, and padded gloves to challenge adroitness. The disorientation experienced while wearing the suit is intended to provide German medical students with insight into the day-to-day realities faced by the country’s fastest-growing population group.
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.