Medical Automation’s Top Twenty Medical Advancements of 2013

| December 31, 2013
Medical Automation’s Top Twenty Medical Advancements for 2013 were selected from over 350 summaries featured in the Tagline weekly newsletter.  These advancements are truly notable since all the summaries brought to you throughout the year are first selected from thousands of news announcements by the Tagline Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Terry Sharrer, and then winnowed down to just 20 by the Medical Automation team.  The predominant theme in this year’s winning selections is personalized and regenerative medicine.  Technology developers have realized the potential of technology to vastly reduce health care costs while improving individual health.  These benefits result from disease avoidance through early detection and monitoring and detection at earlier time points in order minimize the impact of curable diseases.  Furthermore, rapid advancements in regenerative medicine promise replacement body parts in the relatively near future when disease cannot be avoided.  

BIODEGRADABLE NANOPARTICLES DELIVER ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS 

A multicenter research group in New York and Boston has shown that an anti-inflammatory peptide called “Ac2-26,” can be encapsulated in biodegradable nanoparticles, so to evade the drug’s degradation in the blood and liver, and then arrive at a tissue injury site to suppress inflammation.  Ac2-26, made up of 24 amino acids, is derived from the naturally occurring… MORE

BREATHALYZER FOR DIABETES

Two weeks ago, Tagline included a piece about a tin dioxide nanofiber, with a catalytic platinum coating, that could detect breath acetone as an indicator of diabetes.  In this piece, University of Pittsburgh chemists report something similar-a sensor made of carbon nanotubes with titanium dioxide “skewers” that capture volatile organic compounds ….MORE 

COUNTING LEUKOCYTES AT HOME

There’s a general supposition in hospital management that anything which can be performed as an out-patient procedure will be done that way. That’s becoming apparent with minimally-invasive surgery.  Now, it appears that hospital laboratory tests can become decentralized too.  Engineers at Caltech and an Israeli company have developed a portable blood ….  MORE 

EARBUDS MEASURE INTRACRANIAL PRESSURE

Based on the long known observation that intracranial pressure decreases blood flow in the brain, a startup company, Head Sense Medical (Netanya, Israel) has developed ear buds that emit low frequency sounds and then measure the resulting sound waves.  Narrowing of blood vessels raises the sounds’ pitch; and the recorded data is wirelessly transmits to a tablet ….MORE 

FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION WITH 3-D PRINTING  

The video in this piece is not for the faint-hearted, but it shows a dramatic application of 3-D printing to medicine-i.e. creating a  prosthetic for a British man who lost half of his face due to a squamous cell carcinoma.  Also see the second video of Wake Forest University’s Tony Atala discussing tissue regeneration and organ “printing.”   MORE

GROWING LIVERS OUTSIDE THE BODY 
The liver can regenerate itself naturally, but that has been very difficult to achieve outside the body.  However, researchers at MIT have found that twelve compounds (isolated from a much larger number of liver enzymes) can support liver functions and growth in tissue culture.  The next step is to grow iPSCs using these compounds on a polymer scaffold.  MORE 

HAND-HELD BLOOD ANALYZER FOR MALARIA 
Foreseen almost as a micro pathology lab in the space of an over-the-counter glucometer, the “Nanomal” can extract the DNA of the malaria pathogen, Plasmodium falciparum, from a drop of human blood, and then do a PCR amplification and sequencing to determine both the species of the parasite and its expected resistance to drug therapy.  It can do this in about 20 minutes…MORE   

HARVESTING STEM CELLS, POST MORTEM 
The 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act made whole brain death the definition of death itself in the US.  This came after centuries of respiration and heartbeat being the difference between the living and the dead.  But that standard may need a proviso regarding stem cells, as researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris have discovered that human stem cells can survive without oxygen for at least …. MORE 

IMPLANTABLE BLOOD TESTING DEVICE WITH WIRELESS TRANSMISSION 
Blood testing for metabolites seems poised to become a distance monitoring process with an implantable device scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland have developed.  The device is a 14 mm long sensor that can simultaneously detect seven proteins and organic acids from a location just below the skin.  The sensor communicated with a skin patch that … MORE     

LAB-GROWN STEM CELLS 
Lots of laboratories expand stem cell lines, but it is a tricky business in which those cells often proceed to differentiation before reaching a necessary mass.  Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have found that chemicals which block a specific membrane surface receptor, CD 47, will allow stem cells to divide without differentiating until … MORE 

MOUSE CLONED FROM A SINGLE DROP OF BLOOD 
What’s different about this experiment in somatic cell nuclear transfer is that the transferred nucleus came from a white blood cell (granulocyte) and it resulted in a fertile cloned female mouse that lived for nearly two years, according to the report from RIKEN’s Bioresource Center in Tsukuba, Japan.  This approach would be particularly helpful in maintaining ….MORE 

NANOFIBER BREATHALYZER FOR DIABETES AND LUNG CANCER 
Researchers at the Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology have shown how to create tin-dioxide nanotubes, with catalytic platinum coatings, that can detect acetone, toluene, and ammonia in exhaled breath, indicating diabetes, lung cancer and kidney disease respectively.  The detection level is sensitive to 100 parts per billion.  MORE 

PERSONALIZED DIAGNOSTIC FOR SALT SENSITIVITY 
Salt sensitivity is implicated in the deadliest human diseases: stroke, kidney failure, heart attack. About a third of all people are salt sensitive, though until now it has been difficult to identify those at risk. This prepublication abstract describes a diagnostic that provides guidance as to how sensitive (or not)  individuals are to their dietary salt.  The daily maximum salt that should be consumed by each individual is termed the “personal salt index”.

PRINTING IMPLANTABLE CARTILAGE 
Combining ink jet printing and electrospinning technologies, bioengineers at Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine have fabricated an artificial cartilage that has proven successful in animal studies.  As this piece reports: “. . . flexible mats of electrospun synthetic polymer were combined, layer-by-layer, with a solution of cartilage cells from a …  MORE  

SCHIZOPHRENIA DIAGNOSED WITH NASAL NEURONS 
What does a nematode have to do with schizophrenia in humans?  Nothing directly, but I 1993 the first micro RNA was discovered inC. elegans and biologists came to understand how micro RNAs govern gene expression by working with messenger RNA.  Now, a research group at Tel Aviv University has found that schizophrenia patients have a higher level of a …. MORE         

STEERABLE NEEDLES FOR TREATING BRAIN CLOTS 
Neurosurgeons at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN have developed a cannula with multiple tubes inside that can target a brain hemorrhage site and draw off the blood clot.  The steerability comes from having tubes of different curvatures which a robot can select for reaching the right location.   MORE 

SYNTHETIC ECM GEL INSTANTLY STOPS BLEEDING 
A 3rd year undergrad at NYU has developed a gel that can stop bleeding on contact.  The material is a synthetic extracellular matrix compound derived from genetically engineered plants, combining cellulose microfibrils and glycoproteins.  See the video showing how it works.  MORE 

TENTATIVE STEPS TOWARD LIVER REGENERATION 

Last year, Japanese scientist Shimya Yamanaka shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discoveries about converting mature cells into induced pluripotent stem cells.  Building on that, researchers at Yokohama City University have used a combination of liver cell precursors from iPSCs, and natural stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood (endothelial and…..MORE 

URINE-GAS TEST FOR GASTROESOPHAGEAL BIOMARKERS 
Using sealed specimen cups and mass spectroscopy, researchers at Imperial College London were able to detect gastroesophageal cancer biomarkers in vaporized urine. Potentially, this offers a means for earlier detection, and the researchers are now trying the same approach for colon cancer.  MORE  

VOICE TESTING FROM HOME FOR PARKINSON’S 
This piece has a TED video of Max Little discussing the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative, by which it is possible to detect Parkinson’s disease based on the tremor, weakness or rigidity of a person’s voice over the phone in 30 seconds.  Little claims the voice signal processing is 99% accurate for PD onset and progression.  MORE 


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