PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

From a mobile app that rewards you for making healthy choices to a 3D printed exoskeleton, we bring you the most innovative stories from the world of wellness research.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 22 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.

App Gives Users Discounts And Rewards For Making Healthy Choices
Zipongo is a health planning technology and iPhone app that allows users to customize and manage their own personalized wellness plans. Aimed at assisting people with making healthy product purchases, the online healthcare marketplace offers users deals, recipes, and healthy meal plans that are personalized based on an individual’s health requirements, lifestyle, and personal preferences. Through an opt-in service, users can connect their electronic medical records and health data to the startup, enabling Zipongo to personalize health plans for users and offer them relevant deals at local food suppliers and retailers. Zipongo users are rewarded with discounts and deals for making healthy food choices, redeemable through loyalty cards which can be used at local merchants.

‘Smart’ Endurance-Prolonging Suit For Soldiers Helps Fight Fatigue
Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has received a $2.6M contract from DARPA to develop a suit for soldiers that would improve their physical performance. Under the concept design, the lightweight, flexible suit would feature sensors that would track the wearer’s biomechanics. These sensors could work to help delay the feeling of fatigue, enable the wearer to walk further and boost the body’s sensory functions to help the wearer maintain balance.

Monitoring Sensors Embedded In MLS Jerseys Provide Real-Time Feedback
Adidas and US Major League Soccer have announced an initiative for the 2013 season that will equip every player with health monitoring sensors for real-time tracking and feedback. The system, miCoach, embeds player clothing with wearable sensors, which will track their movements, heart rate and other vital health information. The sensors are woven into the fabric of the players’ uniforms, and coaches can monitor the data in real-time on an iPad from the sideline, as well as access the data following the match for post-game analysis.

Cell-Infused ‘Spray-On-Skin’ Helps Leg Ulcers Heal Quickly
A team of US and Canadian researchers have developed a “spray-on skin” that coats a wound with a layer of skin cells that could help promote faster healing. The spray, which is infused with skin cells and blood clotting proteins, was tested on a sample of individuals suffering leg ulcers, which normally undergo compression bandage treatment and generally heal after six months. After treatment with the spray every two weeks, 70% of the patients tested were healed after three months.

Nerve Cell Transplant Could Help Spinal Cord Injury Patients Regain Sensation
The FDA has granted doctors who are part of the Miami Project, an organization dedicated to curing paralysis, the go ahead to begin Phase 1 human trials for a new surgical technique in which nerve cells from the leg would be transplanted to the spine of newly paralyzed patients in the hope that they would grow – restoring at least some function and sensation. Whereas nerves in the peripheral nervous system – those that carry signals in an arm or leg for example – are able to regenerate after injury, nerves located in the central nervous system never recover. During several years of trials on animals, Miami Project scientists demonstrated 70% recovery rates of lost sensation and function. Under the new study, researchers will seek eight volunteers with fresh spinal injury farther down the spine than the neck, often resulting in paraplegia rather than quadriplegia. The patients will be followed for at least a year to determine what, if any improvement they’ve experienced, or what, if any, problems they’ve encountered. While the trials are not without risk, the new procedure could provide hope to those with spinal cord injuries.

Geo-location Campaign From Clif Bar Rewards Fans When They Tweet From A Park
Organic snack bar company Clif Bar has created a geo-location Twitter campaign that rewards consumers for spending time outdoors. After Twitter users send a geo-tagged tweet to @CLIFMojoGo, the company verifies that the user is at a park, on a trail, at the beach or otherwise communing with nature, and then sends them a coupon for a free trail mix bar. Participants are also entered to win a Garmin GPS watch and other adventure gear.

3D Printed Exoskeleton Lets Handicapped Girl Use Her Arms For The First Time
Researchers at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware have developed a 3D printed robotic exoskeleton enabling a handicapped child to move freely for the very first time. The patient, Emma, had been born into a condition known as arthrogryposis and would not gain the ability to lift her arms as she developed. The WREX exoskeleton was manufactured using a 3D printer to create a prosthetic light enough for Emma to use freely, while incorporating hinged bars and resistance bands to help her move her arms in space with very little residual strength. The WREX was designed to assist arthrogryposis sufferers as young as six and offers the opportunity to scale production, allowing researchers to customize and print exoskeleton designs to each patient’s unique specifications using their own CAD software.

Computer Simulation Aims to Predict Public Policy Effects On HIV/AIDS
A researcher of epidemiology at Brown University has developed a computer simulation that can be used to help predict which set of public policies effectively mitigate the spread of infectious disease. The simulation involves thousands of virtual humans engaging in unique behavioral patterns, and was calibrated based-on data collected between 1992 and 2002 in New York City around the spread of HIV/AIDS. The model was able to successfully reproduce the infection rates among injection drug users that were known to occur during those times by factoring in a percentage of people who engage in drug use and their sexual activity, and other statistics such as how often the virus can be transmitted through encounters such as unprotected gay sex or by needle sharing. By using data gathered in years past, the model was able to accurately trace how New York City’s HIV/AIDS population became infected through risky behavior and associate that information with corresponding public policies aimed at altering behavior, suggesting which policies proved most effective in the past and likely to be useful in the future.

Ford’s In-Car Technology Warns Drivers Of Allergens In The Air
The Ford Motor Company has updated its voice control Sync mobile application with a feature that detects and warns drivers and passengers about potential areas of high allergens. The update to the in-car application, Applink, provides warnings and other information concerning allergy alerts, which are displayed on the car’s data screen. Users can access this information by voice command, as well as tap into information about the current flu index, or even what the UV index is at home or their destination.

Robotically Probe Aims To Help Minimize Injections During Surgery
Scientists at the Harvard research labs have developed a Robotically Steerable Thermal Ablation Probe, a device designed to help minimize the number of injections required when treating something like a tumor. The machine is guided by an x-ray image displayed on a computer screen, which enables doctors to select several destinations for exploration within a target area, without requiring multiple injections. This less invasive procedure is made possible by a “needle within a needle design”, a curved, retractable needle located inside of a slightly larger one. Applications for the technology extend beyond just injection, including the possibility of extracting tissue samples from a patient for further analysis.

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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