PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

From crowdsourcing a cure for cancer to an 'ouchless' band-aid, we bring you the most innovative stories from the world of wellness research.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 18 november 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.

Citizen Scientists Combine To Identify Effective Cancer Treatments
Cancer Research UK has launched an interactive database of cancerous cell samples and is inviting the public to help lab researchers investigate the images. The website, is a collaboration with Zooniverse, a website that invites amateur astronomers to analyze NASA data. The Cell Slider project breaks down a specific area of research into small, easily accessible parts, asking participants to match up a database of two million cell images. Guided by a tutorial, the public is asked to identify what type of cells they are seeing – irregular, white blood cells or normal tissue. If they spot irregular cells, they’re asked what percentage of those cells have turned yellow. The idea is to match up the results from this analysis of cell type, with how the anonymous patient in question responded to that treatment. It will help researchers see how effective different treatments are in helping specific cell types. Initially, the project will concentrate on breast cancers, but if this stage is a success, other cancers with their own distinct biological markers will begin to be introduced.

Medically-Equipped Drones Could Become The First Responders Of The Future
A graduate student from Austria has begun prototyping a first aid drone network for cities, which is designed to fly defibrillators and other medical equipment to people during emergencies. The robotic first responders or Smart Aid would seek to complement existing ambulance services, and would be strategically positioned on top of buildings across a city. When a call for help goes out through the system, the sensor-linked drones would automatically deliver the kit where it’s needed. They would be met by a community of trained human responders who are connected through a mobile app. The idea is to narrow the emergency situation response window to within six minutes, which is the standard time for survival. Though the drone technology already exists, the creator has only built a non-working prototype

Biometric Video Game Helps Kids Control Their Anger 
Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital are using heart rate monitoring in a video game to teach children with anger issues how to temper their emotions. Called RAGE (Regulate and Gain Emotional) Control, the game tasks players with exploding enemy spaceships without letting their heart rate surpassing a predefined limit. When a gamer’s pulse growths beyond the ceiling, they won’t be able to shoot until they can bring their pulses down again. Children who got standard treatments and played the game for 5 to 15 minutes were able to better control their heart rate and drop anger levels than those who only used the traditional treatments. A controlled clinical trial of RAGE Control is on the way and the concept might take a step further with possible developing of toys and games suited for younger children.

Electronic Nose ‘Sniffs Out’ Sleep Apnea
A team of researchers has developed an electronic nose capable of detecting volatile organic compounds in a patient’s breath, which can indicate sleep apnea. The electronic nose is designed to rule out the disease in both low and high-risk populations, serving as a firstline to help doctors decide who would need to undergo an overnight sleep examination. While the electronic nose would not directly replace a time-consuming and cost-intensive overnight sleep test, it would enable doctors to determine more accurately which patients required the more expensive and time-consuming test. In a study published in the European Respiratory Journal, the electronic nose was found to have a detection sensitivity of 93 percent.

Nasal Spray Could Replace The Use Of Needles For Vaccines
Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London are developing a non-invasive method for delivering vaccines, which is more affordable and safer to administer than injections. The innovation integrates the spores of the Bacillus subtilis into a vaccine administered via nasal spray, oral liquid or capsules or as a small soluble film placed under the tongue. The spores are also exceptionally stable, and the vaccines based on Bacillus do not require cold-chain storage alleviating a further issue with current vaccine approaches. Pre-clinical evaluations of Bacillus-based vaccines for a number of diseases, including tuberculosis, influenza, and tetanus are currently underway.

Rip Off These Painless Bandages Without Fear
Researchers from MIT and Harvard Medical School have created a ‘gentle’ bandage for sensitive skin that peels off without tugging. The novel design leaves the adhesive on the skin, while removing the bandage. By introducing an intermediate layer of silicone between the glue and the bandage, the researchers were able to separate the bandage from the adhesive while peeling it off. Once removed, the glue left on the skin can be gently washed off or be allowed to fall off on its own. The researchers believe this new type of bandage could be useful for people with hairy skin or infants whose skin is extra sensitive due to the fact that they have yet to develop the epidermis layer of their skin.

DIY Robot Kit Helps Special Needs Children Learn Social Skills
Romibo is a crowdsourced, low-cost, do-it-yourself robot kit that was designed to provide a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) building experience for special needs children. Because robot therapy has been shown to be beneficial to people with social, emotional, and developmental disorders, the researchers have designed Romibo with a range of social tools that are effective in provoking emotional responses. Meant to be assembled with the help of a parent, the plush toy robot is able to drive around, blink its eyes, speak and move its antennae. Romibo can be controlled via an iOS app or a proprietary remote control. New software updates can be downloaded directly to the robot via a built-in Wi-Fi antenna with the creators saying that the robot’s abilities will grow over time as more developers write functions for it.

Robot Surgeon Assists In World’s First Open-Heart Operation
Surgeons have carried out the first ever robotic open-heart operation at the New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, England. The Da Vinci robot is remotely controlled by surgeons who are given a high definition 3D view of the heart through a sophisticated camera. Normal heart surgery involves cutting open the breastplate, but the robotic arms are inserted by making cuts between the patient’s ribs. Doctors claim that using this procedure involves less pain and allows patients to return home to their normal activities far sooner. The hospital hopes to carry out 30 such repairs a year using the robot, which is already employed in other operations.

Android Phones Transformed Into Devices For The Blind
As part of its Wireless Reach initiative, Qualcomm has teamed with an Israeli firm to create Ray, a multifunction device that brings streamlined smartphone functionality to the visually impaired. Ray combines off-the-shelf Android smartphone hardware powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor with a custom user interface designed for eye-free operation. The UI employs a touch screen, haptics, sensors, text-to-speech, and audio feedback to support phone calls, sending and receiving e-mails and text messages, social networking, remote device management, and more. The device hopes to declutter the lives of the visually impaired, who often rely on multiple devices to help them get through their days.

Brazilian Surgeons Use Kinect To Control X-ray Displays During Operations
Hospital Evangélico de Londrina in Brazil is leveraging the gesture recognition technology of a Microsoft Kinect to help surgeons control on-screen imagery and save important time in the operating room. The ‘Intera’ project enables surgeons to interact with medical images displayed on screens in the operating room in a secure and sanitary way, allowing them to swap, magnify or play video without taking off their gloves. The system makes the process of retrieving and displaying important visual cues for surgeons easier and quicker, reducing stress for doctors and giving patients a greater chance of survival in emergency situations. Intera has already been used successfully in actual operations but at the moment it is limited to the Hospital Evangélico de Londrina.

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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