PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

From painless laser-based injections to growing bespoke organs, we bring you the most innovative stories from the world of wellness research.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 7 october 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.

Lasers Take The Pain Out Of Medical Injections
A team of scientists from Seoul National University in South Korea hope to replace single-use hypodermic needles with a laser-based injection system that blasts microscopic jets of drugs into the skin. The ER:YAG (erbium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet) laser is fitted with an adaptor that contains the medications along with a small amount of water. When pulsed with the laser, the drugs are ejected from a nozzle that is about the same width as a human hair. By targeting the epidermal layer of the skin’s surface the laser method virtually eliminates the pain associated with traditional needle injections and generates none of waste.

Need A Pregnancy Test? Buy One At This Bathroom Vending Machine
In an effort to reduce the number of unsuspecting mothers from drinking during the early stages of their pregnancy, a non-profit called Healthy Brains for Children is installing up to 100 pregnancy test vending machines in local bars throughout Minneapolis, Minnesota. The three-dollar tests can be purchased with a debit or credit card. Based on the success of the pilot, there is the potential to expand the program into more cities.

Off-Road Wheelchair Inspired By A Military Tank Can Go Anywhere
The Tank Chair is a wheelchair designed for off-roading that offers handicapped users unprecedented access to new terrain, and can even enables hands-free operation. Utilizing rubber tracks and a high-torque electric motor, the chair easily rolls over sand, mud, gravel and snow and streams up to two-feet deep. Users have already reported using the chair as a working machine in wheelchair unfriendly environments including ranches and farms.

Communication System Allows Battlefield Medics Remote Contact With Surgeons
The U.S. Army has developed a live audio/video enabled communication tool for battlefield medics that can manage patient data from injury site to recovery. The system relies on 4G cellular networking to send vitals to doctors and surgeons in the hospital while recording all transmissions in the case for further review. The concept places background information around the patient and injury into the hands of specialists early in order to dramatically speed up the initialization of proper care. It is anticipated that system can be translated for use in civilian care and integrated into ambulances and clinics.

Body Heat-Powered Bandages Could Deliver Medicine, Eliminating Need For Needles
Researchers at Purdue University’s Birck Nanotechnology Center have developed a method that could one day enable ordinary Band-Aids to deliver medication to a patient as a pain free alternative to needles. The method involves sandwiching a tiny heat-powered pump filled with sugar and baker’s yeast between two polymers. When the patch is stuck to the skin, the water and heat from the patient’s body causes the yeast and sugar to ferment, producing carbon dioxide (CO2). As the CO2 is released, the chamber expands and pushes against the polymer membranes which, when covered with tiny micro needles, would automatically inject a medication through the skin without the patient feeling a thing. The researchers believe that their approach to microneedle patches is much cheaper than other methods as well as easier to use.

Monitor Real-Time Health Status With ‘Stretchable Skin’
US-based company MC10 has produced stretchable skin with embedded sensors that can replace stitches and camouflage cuts. The stretchable electronics could utilize sensors to monitor open wounds for infection and track healing progress, wirelessly transmitting reports to patients and doctors. Near-field technology could seamlessly relay information for health practitioners like blood sugar, oxygenation and temperature, which are commonly monitored statistics in hospitals. The company hopes the technology can easily be integrated into patients’ lives, while still providing continuous monitoring.

Brain Implant Improves Thinking Ability In Primates
Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of Southern California designed a brain implant that improves the lost mental capacity and decision making abilities in primates by fine-tuning communication between neurons in the cerebral cortex. Five monkeys were trained to play a picture-game over the course of several years while the probe recorded particular neuronal patterns correlated with the correct pictures. The scientists then deliberately damaged the monkeys’ brains using cocaine, which impaired their ability to pick the correct pictures. The scientists then activated the implant, which transmitted the learned neural patterns to their brains, restoring and even improving the monkeys’ ability to choose the correct images. Scientists hope that these types of implants will allow them to treat debilitating brain conditions in future patients by bypassing the affected areas of the brain.

Organs Made From A Patient’s Own Body Cells Overcome Need For Transplant Match
A Swedish doctor at the Karolinska Institute has successfully implanted a fully-functioning bioartificial windpipe into a patient suffering from esophageal cancer. A first-of-its-kind procedure in the field of regenerative medicine, the doctor constructed an exact copy of the patient’s windpipe from a porous, fibrous plastic, which was then seeded with stem cells harvested from the patient’s bone marrow. After two days in a bioreactor, the implant was stitched into the patient, replacing his cancerous windpipe. The innovation hinges on harnessing the body’s innate repair mechanisms to assist in transplanting the organ. Fifteen months after the operation, the patient is tumor-free and breathing normally.

What Does Your Body Language Say? Sensor Vest Improves Posture And Gives Social Clues
RISR is a wearable web of sensors and vibrating stimulators to help coach both orthopedic posture as well as social interactions. An elastic harness simultaneously connects over a dozen sensors and measures movement, while an infrared camera records other people’s movements. Patients are coached through some basic baseline movements, before the device can be linked to a mobile app to help improve posture and social cues. Users can select different modes through the app to stimulate postures and correct issues or respond to other’s body language. The hope is that the wearable technology will help those overcoming social problems and self-correct body language based on life changes.

‘Companion’ Robot Helps Senior Citizens Live Independently
Netherlands based Smart Homes has developed a program called CompanionAble that uses technology to help senior citizens live independently. ‘Hector’ is an in-home caregiver for elderly people who have mild cognitive impairment. For individuals experiencing occasional memory loss, the robot provides reminders for everyday tasks, like taking medications, returning phone calls and storing grocery lists. The robot can even detect falls and respond to verbal commands. Hector was awarded 7.8 million euros from the EU Seventh Framework Program for further development.

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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