PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

From an 'artificial brain' capable of diagnosing breast cancer to a study that uncovers how Twitter can predict the flu we bring you the most innovative stories from the world of wellness research.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 15 august 2012

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.

Teenage Girl Develops Artificial ‘Brain’ That Diagnoses Breast Cancer With 99% Accuracy
Seventeen-year-old Brittany Wenger of Sarasota, Florida wrote a breast cancer diagnostic app called Cloud4Cancer based on an artificial neural network – a computer program based on the architecture of the brain’s cell connections. The artificial neuron network app, which detects breast cancer with 99% accuracy, is intended to increase the success rates of less-invasive tests and replace the least invasive diagnostic test for the disease, the fine needle aspirate, which is also the least accurate test. The artificial neural networks “learned” to diagnose breast cancer by analyzing the data from publicly available fine needle aspirate tests of breast cancer patients. She wrote the software for the program after other artificial neural networks proved less accurate. The app is being hosted online so that doctors can enter additional fine needle aspirate data, which will allow the app to improve over time.

3D Imaging Scanner Helps Doctors Create Perfectly Fitting Hearing Aids
Cambridge, MA-based Lantos Technologies has raised $3.8 million toward developing the Lantos 3D Intra-Aural Digital Scanner, a handheld imaging device designed to provide an easy and accurate method for fitting hearing aids. The current audiology-fitting process requires doctors to make molds of patients’ ears using silicon, which is often painful and imprecise. This 3D scanner takes multiple images inside a patient’s ear canals, and is capable of imaging while they move their heads, which changes the shape of the canal. Based on a technology originally developed to detect the thickness of oil inside engines, the scanner uses a flexible insert that expands in the ear canal, and contains dye and a fiber-optic camera that captures images based on light absorption. The company is currently awaiting FDA-approval of the technology.

How Twitter Data Can Predict When Individuals Will Get Sick
Researchers at the University of Rochester have discovered that they can use Twitter data to predict when an individual person will come down with the flu up to eight days before they show symptoms. Adam Sadilek and his team trained a machine-learning algorithm to identify the difference between tweets by healthy people and those showing signs of the flu. They then analyzed 4.4 million tweets tagged with GPS location data from users in the New York City area. Using this method, the researchers were able to predict when healthy individuals would become ill (and tweet about it) with roughly 90 percent accuracy for up to eight days in advance. Unfortunately, this method is limited in that it does not consider other factors in spreading illnesses and misses the cases of those who do not reliably tweet about their symptoms.

New Laser Can Detect And Destroy Cancer Tumors
Scientists at the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma have developed a noninvasive method to target and destroy cancer tumors. The laser technology utilizes ultra-short light pulses to hone in on and locate a tumor without damaging surrounding tissue in the process. After mapping out its location, the concept technology enables increased radiation treatment to the tumor’s exact location. Due to its noninvasive nature, the innovation may potentially assist brain cancer victims because of the laser’s ability to go through thin bone like the skull without heating up surrounding areas.

Use A Webcam To Work Out Remotely With A Personal Fitness Trainer
Wello is an online startup that offers one-on-one personal training via a webcam-enabled video-conferencing technology. Users begin by creating a simple profile with information about their health, goals and at-home exercise equipment, and then position themselves in front of their computer screen. A Wello trainer reviews the profile before each session in order to customize a workout, and interact with their students in real-time remotely over the Web. Currently, users can choose from up to 150 instructors based on the type of workout, time of day and the intensity of workout they desire.

Smartphone App Identifies Anemia Levels Without Invasive Needle Pricks
Biomedical engineering undergraduates at the University of John Hopkins have developed a noninvasive way to identify women in developing nations who have the blood disorder anemia. The device, HemoGlobe, attaches to a health worker’s smartphone and utilizes a sensor, placed on a patient’s fingertip to shine different wavelengths of light through their skin to measure hemoglobin levels in their blood. Health workers can quickly see color-coded test results indicating cases of anemia, from mild to severe, converting smartphones into a tool for detecting and reporting illness at the individual level.

Toys Help Explain Scary Medical Procedures To Kids
Eindhoven graduate Hikaru Imamura has designed a series of toys which provide visual explanations of medical procedures to hospitalized children. Noticing an opportunity to enhance the preparatory educational materials around CT-scans, MRIs and X-rays presented to children at most hospitals, the Japanese designer decided to incorporate wooden blocks, figurines, and interactive materials to attract children’s attention through play. For example, in preparing children for a CT scan, one of the artist’s concepts visualize a person on a bed traveling through the CT scanner’s tunnel in simple wooden forms, and when a button on the toy computer is pushed, a cross-sectional image of the body appears on the monitor.

Smartphone App Alerts People Trained In First Aid To Nearby Medical Emergencies
Rapid Rescue, an app developed by JWT Singapore for the Singapore Red Cross Society, enables those with first aid training to register to receive push notifications if someone nearby needs help. In the event of a medical emergency, users, especially those with known medical conditions, can make an SOS call by pressing the large cross on the home screen. This will use GPS technology to alert any first aiders with the app near the location of the person in need, and will provide the quickest route to them. Nearby responders can then choose to either go to the location and assist, phone the caller, phone an ambulance, or reject the mission. Additional information about the Red Cross and its first aid courses is also available in the app, which is currently a free download in the Apple App Store and in development for Android devices.

Researchers Develop 3D Printer That Can Print Drugs On-Demand
Professor Lee Cronin at Glasgow University is developing a system for 3D printing drugs through a series of custom printed reaction chambers that could be used to synthesize pharmaceutical compounds. With the development of this system, along with precisely sized chambers and a downloadable drug “app,” Cronin aims to make at-home drug production and delivery possible. Using chemical “ink,” a series of basic reactants that can be modified to build useful compounds in association with software programs would guide the system in using the reaction chamber to synthesize the necessary drug from inks without requiring the user’s intervention. Although some drug syntheses are fairly simple, others require exactness of various factors including heat, pressure, contamination, and natural light, which make at-home production of these drugs more difficult and even dangerous. However, the team is currently developing its first chemical app for Ibuprofen.

Simulating Bodily Functions With A Sliver of Human Brain On A Chip
The NIH in partnership with DARPA and the FDA are launching the Tissue Chip for Drug Testing, a $70 million program, in partnership with several major universities to study the micro-environments of various human organs via non-intrusive approaches. Since labs-on-chips are limited in scope to certain cell or fluid types, this program aims for scientists to build ten different organs-on-chips, connect them in a way that mimics a real body, and design and develop software that automatically controls fluid flow and also performs analysis. The goal of tissue chips is to emulate bodily functions, processes, and diseases and thereby eliminate the need for controversial (and often ineffectual) animal testing for new drugs.

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 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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