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Medical Innovation: Tomorrow’s Technologies Under Development Today

Jul 14, 2014

Technologies that heal are among the medical innovations of our day, what can prevent headaches, stop bed sores, and even extend the lives of the chronically ill. Laser surgeries, artificial hearts, dialysis machines, and radiation therapy are among the more recent innovations we have seen. New technologies under development today have the potential to heal or relieve suffering for millions of the afflicted, improving and transforming lives along the way.

Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator

Migraine headaches can be debilitating, and are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and a sensitivity to light. Changes in weather, stress, caffeine withdrawal, gluten sensitivity, and a magnesium deficiency can cause migraines. Recognizing the triggers can help limit or even prevent migraines in some people, but for others enduring the suffering has been their only choice.

In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first device designed to relieve the pain of migraines preceded by aura — a sensory disturbance that takes place just ahead of an attack. Available by prescription, the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator releases a pulse of magnetic energy to stimulate the occipital cortex, the visual processing center of the brain. Patients activate the device by holding it with two hands at the back of their necks, pressing a button to activate the pulse. In clinical testing more than 38 percent of the people that used the device said that they were pain free after two hours compared with 17 percent that did not. The device is being manufactured by eNeura Therapeutics of Sunnyvale, Calif.

Smart e-Pants: Electric Underwear

Bed sores can be a killer, what can contribute to infections that takes the lives of tens of thousands of immobilized people every year. A long hospital or nursing home stay puts people at risk, a problem usually overcome by frequently turning the patient. In understaffed hospitals and nursing homes immobilization is a big problem.

A Canadian researcher, Dr. Sean Dukelow, developed electric underpants that shock the patient’s backside to help prevent bed sores. Dukelow led a team of University of Calgary physicians in placing two pads of electrodes on each cheek of 37 patients with spinal cord injury, zapping them with a low stimulus current for 10 seconds every 10 minutes for 12 hours daily. The results were profound: not one person developed bed sores. Further studies will be conducted for a product that has the potential to save many lives.

Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (Pons) Device

Repairing brain damage requires extensive rehabilitation, a process that can take years for a full recovery. Even then, not all of the 800,000 plus people that suffer strokes (brain attacks) each year are able to regain what they lost nor do the tens of thousands of other individuals that suffer traumatic brain injury.

A patient’s tongue may soon become the starting point for repairing brain damage. The tongue’s proximity to the brain and its density of nerve receptors requires less stimulation than anywhere else on the body leading researchers to develop the Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (Pons). These researchers have reasoned that when a stimuli is applied to the tongue it may cause the brain to target repairing damaged nerves. Pons may also be useful for helping people with other conditions that affect the brain including alcoholism and Parkinson’s disease.

From Gel to Artificial Cells

Scientists have been experimenting with reproducing human tissue outside of the body, in a bid to create new body parts to replace organs that are no longer working. A diseased heart, failing kidneys, and other damaged or diseased body parts might someday be replaced, saving lives and extending lifespans by decades.

Researchers have developed an artificial gel that mimics living cells and has the potential to treat wounds. The synthetic gel may help develop artificial cells and tissues, replacing what was lost or damaged. Essentially, the gel creates a cytoskeleton made of proteins, preventing bacteria from passing through with the fluid.

Future Medical Breakthroughs

Researchers are also looking for medical breakthroughs in many other areas that may yield profound results. Some of the goals include eradicating genetic conditions, using microchip implants to help the blind see, curing neurological diseases, and ending cancer deaths. Cures and solutions that seemed impossible just a few years ago may soon be within reach, improving and extending our lives in ways that may be hard to imagine.

Notes:

WebMD: FDA Approves New Magnet Device to Treat Migraines — http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/news/20131215/fda-approves-new-magnet-device-to-treat-migraines

ABCNews: Electrical Shock Underwear Help Prevent Bedsores — http://abcnews.go.com/Health/smart-pants-electrical-underwear-helps-prevent-bed-sores/story?id=17491646

Resna: Introduction To The Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (Pons) Device And Effects On Balance And Gait For Individuals With Traumatic Brain Injuries — http://resna.org/conference/proceedings/2013/Outcomes/Liegl.html

Fox News: Artificial Gel Mimics Living Cells — http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/01/24/artificial-gel-mimics-living-cells/

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