A group of scientists at the University of Michigan have succeeded in using functional magnetic resonance imaging to tease apart the brain’s consistent response to physical pain from its very similar response to emotional pain. The result is a moving picture of physical pain that allowed the researchers to predict with remarkable accuracy whether the individual whose brain they were watching was experiencing intense physical pain, the sensation of a warm spot on his arm, or the sting of social rejection.
The study – known as the Developing Human Connectome Project – hopes to look at more than 1,500 babies, studying many aspects of their neurological development.
By examining the brains of babies while they are still growing in the womb, as well as those born prematurely and at full term, the scientists will try to define baselines of normal development and investigate how these may be affected by problems around birth.
The Obama administration introduced the ACA in 2010 to move health care away from a fee-for-service model to one that promotes preventative care and overall wellness. Beginning this October the ACA will reinforce this approach by penalizing hospitals with chronic readmission problems by cutting Medicare reimbursement payments to those facilities. This policy initially targets patients suffering from three health conditions—heart failure, pneumonia and heart attack—but penalties will apply to additional conditions beginning in 2015.
Remote health monitoring systems have patients wear sensors that wirelessly collect, store, analyze and transmit health-related data. One of several approaches is the Wearable Wellness System from Italy’s Smartex, essentially an undershirt with embedded sensors and a processor that can monitor heart and respiration rates. Although not as fashionable, the Metria wearable sensor, from Vancive Medical Technologies, a medical division of Avery Dennison, can be adhesively bound to the body to measure heart rate, respiration, sleep duration and activity levels.
PCMag visited seven specialists—an allergist, a dermatologist, a pediatrician, and a nutritionist—and asked which apps they recommend to their patients.
A team of researchers at Xerox is working on technology that would allow doctors to obtain patients’ vital signs using a simple webcam. Already, the team is testing use of the technology to monitor the pulse rate of premature babies and to track irregular heartbeats in patients suffering from arrhythmia.
By applying further signal-processing algorithms to the images, doctors can get a read-out of a baby’s blood-oxygen level. If the camera can see more than one part of the child it can also measure that child’s blood pressure. It does this by recording the time each pulse caused by the heartbeat takes to arrive in different arteries.
Asthmapolis uses a novel combination of smartphone applications and snap-on inhaler sensors that track when and how often patients use their inhaled medications. The geomedicine platform, available in both English and Spanish, is designed to help individuals with their daily preventive medications, reveal insights about their use of rescue medications and provide personalized feedback to improve their ability to successfully manage the disease.
Oxford University scientists have created a custom-built programmable 3D printer that can create materials with several of the properties of living tissues.
The new type of material consists of thousands of connected water droplets, encapsulated within lipid films, which can perform some of the functions of the cells inside our bodies. These printed ‘droplet networks’ could be the building blocks of a new kind of technology for delivering drugs to places where they are needed and potentially one day replacing or interfacing with damaged human tissues. Because droplet networks are entirely synthetic, have no genome and do not replicate, they avoid some of the problems associated with other approaches to creating artificial tissues – such as those that use stem cells.
Two new sensor-based early detection tools for diabetic foot ulcers are being developed.
Orpyx Medical Technologies has developed a wristwatch and shoe insert. An insole is designed to support the foot, with three separate foam layers. Eight tiny electronic sensors are packed in the top of the insole so that they rest against thesurface of the foot once the shoe has been put on. These sensors are programmed to detect when pressure exceeds predetermined levels at certain points of the foot that are most susceptible to ulcers. Once they do, they wirelessly transmit a warning to the watch, which immediately sounds an alert.
Cambridge based Podimetrics is developing a home-monitoring bath mat with sensors that record changes in blood flow patterns when a diabetic patient steps on the mat. The sensors scan the foot to collect data about blood flow and send the data to the cloud to be stored and analyzed. The company’s algorithms look at that data in two ways: longitudinally over time and comparatively between the left and right foot to detect patterns that may indicate the presence of a developing ulcer. When the algorithms detect a pre-ulcer, an alert is sent to the patient and his doctor prompting an intervention early on.
A research team jointly led by scientists from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles, have enhanced a device they developed to identify and “grab” circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, that break away from cancers and enter the blood, often leading to the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
If more studies confirm the technology’s effectiveness, the NanoVelcro Chip device could enable doctors to access and identify cancerous cells in the bloodstream, which would provide the diagnostic information needed to create individually tailored treatments for patients with prostate cancer.
With the new system, a patient’s blood is pumped through the NanoVelcro Chip — the microvilli protruding from the cancer cells will stick to the nanofiber structures on the device’s surface, much like Velcro. This phenomenon facilitates the capture of rare CTCs in the blood stream. Next, laser capture microdissection technology allows the scientists to selectively cut out and pick up the CTCs from the NanoVelcro Chip, virtually eliminating any trace of any contamination from white blood cells, which can complicate analysis. Finally, the isolated and purified CTCs are subjected to single cell “next-generation” sequencing, which reveals mutations in the genetic material of the cells and may help doctors personalize therapies to a patient’s unique cancer.
“To date, CTC capture technologies have been able to do little more than count the number of CTCs, which is informative but not very useful from a treatment planning perspective. It is a scientific breakthrough to have the ability to isolate pure CTCs and maintain their integrity for sophisticated genomic and behavioral analyses,” said Hsian-Rong Tseng, PhD, associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA and the inventor of the NanoVelcro Chip concept and device.
Thank you, President Obama.
Today at the White House, President Obama unveiled the “BRAIN” Initiative—a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.
The Initiative promises to accelerate the invention of new technologies that will help researchers produce real-time pictures of complex neural circuits and visualize the rapid-fire interactions of cells that occur at the speed of thought.
The BRAIN Initiative is launching with approximately $100 million in funding for research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget.