Over the last few decades, global innovations in medical therapies and technology have successfully improved the lives of countless patients. From new pharmaceuticals to health management devices, these advancements have increased the life expectancy of individuals in more than 30 countries across the globe. Between 2000 and 2009 alone, recent medical innovations drove over 70 percent of these improvements.
In addition to increasing the length of patients’ lives, these treatments have helped overcome previously life-threatening diseases and injuries such as lung cancer and heart disease. This trend is expected to continue as researchers look to develop treatments for even more ailments. However, a number of recent innovations, such as the following, are already remarkable additions to the catalogue of life-saving medical therapies:
One-Drop Blood Testing
A new advancement in phlebotomy has made it far easier and cheaper for patients to monitor all facets of their health. Those who require blood testing have traditionally needed to undergo a costly process that requires a different vial of blood for each test. However, the team at medical diagnostic firm Theranos revealed a new system that needs only a drop of blood to gain information on a wide range of conditions. Not only can this system test everything from iron levels to genetic analytics, but it can also deliver precise results in a much faster time than standard lab testing. In fact, Theranos can typically provide results to patients within a period of four hours. This efficient testing system offers patients unique access to their health, which can help them monitor and manage their risk for developing serious conditions.
Brain Damage Repair
In collaboration with NeuroHabilitation Corporation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command developed a device that can treat serious neurological conditions and injuries. Called the Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (PoNS), this technology employs a unique pattern of electrodes to administer electric nerve stimuli to the surface of a patient’s tongue. From here, these impulses then use nerve fibers to travel to the brain, where they trigger the restoration of damaged nerves. With accompanying neuromodulation and physical therapies, PoNS can help return normal brain function to those who have experienced ailments such as Parkinson’s disease and traumatic brain damage. This revolutionary treatment has shown patient improvement in as little as a week.
Researchers from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions (AIHS) have created a unique electric undergarment device to help save the lives of those who have limited or no ability to move. Due to a lack of muscle use and blood circulation, many bedridden patients develop bed sores on the skin of their limbs, hips, and back. If not managed properly, this condition can lead to death. AIHS aims to minimize this risk with its Smart-e-Pants device, which delivers electric pulses to patients’ skin throughout the day to stimulate their nerves and muscles. This ensures frequent blood flow to areas with low physical activity, which prevents bed sores from developing altogether.
Medical entrepreneurs Joe Landolina and Isaac Miller have spent years testing an anti-hemorrhaging gel that could one day surpass the applications of traditional bandages. During his junior year at New York University, Landolina developed the innovative Veti-Gel, which bears the appearance of a basic cream-like substance but possesses the ability to close serious wounds. By utilizing plant polymers, the gel is able to simulate a composition akin to that of an extracellular matrix, which uses polysaccharides and proteins to maintain cell structure. When an individual applies Veti-Gel to a bleeding injury, the substance’s matrix creates a seal over the surface of the wound and immediately triggers a coagulative effect to stop further bleeding. Landolina and Miller have already tested the efficacy of the gel on rodents and a cut of pork loin, but they hope to one day earn approval for commercial distribution. Widespread availability could particularly benefit those who sustain life-threatening injuries while in combat.
3D-Printed Cancer Treatment
Over the last several years, 3D printing has emerged as an important tool for the advancement of medical treatments and technology. In 2015, a team of researchers published a study in which they detailed their efforts to develop 3D implantable devices that can help treat patients with bone conditions such as infection and cancer. The medical goal of the project was to develop an appliance that could not only elute chemotherapy and antibiotics but could also be completely biodegradable following the cessation of treatment. Even more impressive is the fact that the researchers created these implants using only desktop 3D printing technologies. One such device measured 5 millimeters in diameter, which offers a promising future of easier patient treatment and less invasive implantation procedures.
Patient Management Systems
A product of patient safety solutions developer IntelliDOT Corporation, the CAREt System aims to help hospital nurses administer more consistent and accurate care to their patients. Using a simple handheld device, nurses are able to easily manage various aspects of their workflow, such as patient documentation and safety. In addition, CAREt can scan barcodes on patient wristbands and pharmaceutical bottles, which ensures that patients receive the correct doses of medication. Recognizing its ability to minimize the risk of health care errors, the team at Colorado’s Parkview Medical Center employed the system in a research study. After using CAREt in the intensive care unit, the staff reported a staggering decrease in the frequency of such life-threatening errors as the use of incorrect medications and delivering care at the wrong time.
Heart Attack Detection
Coronary heart disease has become the primary cause of fatality in patients in the US, thus creating a demand for innovations in both early detection and treatment. As such, Israeli diagnostics firm Novamed created its SensAheart product, which can alert the user of a current or impending heart attack. Those who think they are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack can use the system to determine whether they need to seek medical help. Using only a drop of blood, SensAheart monitors for the presence of the troponin and FABP3 enzymes, which manifest at the beginning of a heart attack. The device displays the results of this test within a few minutes, alerting the user of any abnormalities. During a clinical trial, SensAheart showed promising efficacy, as it accurately detected heart attacks in more than 90 percent of participants.