Breakthroughs in Medical Technology

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As the world changes in all spheres, medicine has also experienced a great revolution, especially in its use of technology. Amazing technologies have been birthed in the last three years while also revolutionizing simplified patient care.

These are the new innovations in medical technology that have set a new pace and direction for the practice of medicine.

Innovations in Diabetes Care

The US Food and Drug Administration, in 2016, approved the first artificial pancreas in the world. The pancreas is an abdominal organ which secretes insulin to regulate blood sugar. This artificial pancreas works in the same way.

The device monitors and records blood sugar, supplying insulin automatically based on this reading. This inarguably is the biggest innovation in the care of the diabetic patient. With the artificial pancreas, the blood sugar of a patient can be kept at normal healthy levels, preventing the progression and complications of the disease.

It does not end there for medical breakthroughs in diabetes care. Google launched a partnership with the pharmaceutical company Novartis to create and patent a digital contact lens that can measure the level of blood glucose from tears.

Generally, diabetes care is always a painful process for the patient, with the daily need for insulin shots and venipuncture for glucose checks. These mean daily needle punctures and sometimes this may be done several times daily.

Echo Therapeutics in Philadelphia, PA is developing innovative technologies that would eliminate these painful needle punctures and pokes with a patch. In 2016, the company announced an electric transdermal processor which would be able to measure a patient’s blood glucose level through the skin without having to draw blood.

The toothbrush-like device removes the top layer cells of the skin, measures and collects the blood glucose reading from these cells and sends the information to a remote monitor wirelessly. When the glucose levels are high or low, audible alarms are triggered in the monitor.

Precision Medicine

Precision medicine or personalized medicine uses genomics to determine an individual’s risk of certain types of cancer and the most effective drugs for cancer treatment. Genomic medicine is a transformation, particularly in the field of oncology, which uses the knowledge of one’s genetic makeup to determine their most appropriate cancer therapy.

Start-ups, like Foundation Medicine and SmartPatients, have leveraged genomic medicine to make personalized cancer diagnosis and treatment available to patients and physicians.

Foundation medicine provides a database of patient-specific cancer treatments based on several DNA-tests. SmartPatients empowers patient through an online community where they learn from one another.

Liquid biopsy, which was birthed in 2016, is changing the way oncologists work and is becoming more accessible to cancer patients worldwide. Liquid biopsy accesses DNA mutations and minute changes in genetic material released by some tumors into the blood. A knowledge of this aids the use of appropriate chemotherapeutic drugs for each patient.

The MelaFind Technology

Melanoma remains the deadliest skin cancer worldwide and diagnosis of this disease has always been made through invasive surgical biopsy.

Today, dermatologists and their patients can heave a sigh of relief with the ease of diagnosis on one hand, and avoidance of invasive surgery on the other. A handheld tool, called MelaFind optical scanner, has been approved by the FDA for analyzing skin tissue to diagnose melanoma.

While this tool may not provide a definitive diagnosis of melanoma, it helps a physician determine whether a biopsy is necessary.

This scanner, produced by Strata Skin Sciences, Irvington, New York, uses missile navigation technologies to scan the surface of a suspected lesion at ten electromagnetic wavelengths. The data collected by the optical scanner is processed using large algorithms and matches against a database of 10,000 images of melanoma.

The concept behind this new technology is to reduce the number of evitable invasive surgical biopsies done, avoiding unnecessary scars in patients and eliminating unnecessary cost.

Electronic Aspirin

Patients with migraines, cluster headaches, and neuralgias will finally get respite from the severe episodic pain they experience. Oral aspirin has often been used as the first-line drug for these conditions, but often, the pain remains unabated.

Neurologists and pain specialists have discovered that these forms of a chronic headache are all caused by damage to the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a nerve bundle within the face. They have, however, not been able to find a definitive treatment for this.

Autonomic Technologies, Inc. in Redwood City, CA, has innovated a ground-breaking technology to resolve this problem – an electronic aspirin. The electronic aspirin is a patent-powered device which is permanently implanted in the upper gum on the side of the head that aches.

The lead tip of the implant is attached to the SPG nerve bundle, and when an episode of a chronic headache begins, the patient places a hand-held remote device on his or her cheek closest to the implant. This releases signals which stimulate the SPG bundle and block the release of the pain-mediating neurotransmitters.

Nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomics is a novel field that combines genetics with nutritional science. Nutrigenomics is based on the concept that our genome gives information about our individual needs.

Nutrigenomics analyses sequences DNA of individuals to determine the right foods to be eaten and which foods should be avoided for a long and healthy life. Nutrigenomics is another form of personalized technology.

A California-based start-up, Habit, is set to revolutionize genomic medicine and nutrition. The company uses genetic markers and data from DNA sequencing to determine the appropriate meal for each of its customers, and deliver it to their doorsteps.

The Future

Technology giants such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and IBM have all deepened their interest in medicine and healthcare, and the heat is on. Google, for example, has partnered with companies such as Calico to search for possible “cures” for aging, and basically all causes of death.

IBM has developed an artificial intelligence system called Watson. Pharmaceutical giant AbbVie, in conjunction with Google, works to accelerate the discovery and marketing of new therapies for a wide range of diseases.

No doubt in the coming years, technology will change the game in medicine, providing simpler, smarter, and faster diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. In years to come, as companies align, collaborate to innovate and develop medical technologies, the impossible will become a reality.