You see them everywhere, on people’s wrists and in annoyingly contagious adverts but could wearable fitness devices be put to even better use? Yes, they monitor your day to day ‘fitness’, such things as how many steps you’re taking and how much sleep you’re getting but if they are able to gather this sort of information could they not also gather data that tells you there is something seriously wrong? That is certainly the hope and idea behind aparito, an app and wearable device that aims to help children suffering from a variety of diseases. Founder and director of aparito, Dr. Elin Haf Davies, who has worked as a children’s nurse for many years, explains how aparito was born out of a ‘frustration that we were relying on very sterile snapshots of data that tell you how the patient is doing on a hospital visit but which doesn’t actually tell you anything about how they’re coping in day to day life at home.’ I hope our approach will contribute quite significantly to changing the way patients are in control of their own data. The idea behind aparito is simple: to take information gathered by the wearable device, combine it with the patient’s perspective on how they are handling their illness. The data can be accessed by the patient’s doctor in real-time at all times, cutting out the need for all manner of long and arduous tests to get the same results. The key to this is that the app and wearable device are designed to benefit both the patient and the doctor. The patient is able to keep track of their symptoms and therefore better manage their illness as well as knowing when to take medication. Meanwhile, the doctor is able to monitor the everyday activity of the patient.   To read full story Click Here Credit Alex Moss
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed a technique to mimic complex systems of capillaries using cotton candy machines. The new technique is used in creating three-dimensional templates of the capillary system and is said to be a huge improvement over other methods. Sugar wouldn't work in creating the threads needed for the template—it was too soluable—so the researchers turned to a special polymer for the job. After spinning a system of polymer threads, the researchers pour a gelatin mixture that includes human cells over the polymer structure. Once the mixture cools, the polymer threads dissolve, leaving behind an elaborate network of tiny passages. "Some people in the field think this approach is a little crazy,” researcher Leon Bellan told Vanderbilt's research news site, “but now we’ve shown we can use this simple technique to make microfluidic networks that mimic the three-dimensional capillary system in the human body in a cell-friendly fashion." Bellan bought his first cotton candy machine from Target for $40—a small price in creating a technique that could help in engineering much-needed livers, kidneys, or bones.   To read full story Click Here Credit NICOLE CARPENTER
If you were wondering why your hair was looking somewhat less lustrous than in previous years, we finally have an answer for you: it's because your thinning hair is turning into skin. For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a mechanism that turns age damaged stem cells in hair follicles into skin. As it happens to more and more stem cells, the hair follicles shrink and eventually disappear -- leaving you hairless. It's the first time such a mechanism has been identified with ageing. Unlike stem cells elsewhere in the body, hair follicle cells regenerate on a cyclical basis -- a growth phase is followed by a dormant phase in which they stop producing hair.  To find out why hair thins, Emi Nishimura and her team at Tokyo Medical and Dental University began looking at follicle stem cell growth cycles in mice. They found that age-related DNA damage triggers the destruction of the protein Collagen 17A1, which in turn triggers the transformation into 'epidermal keratinocytes' -- or skin. When the research was replicated in humans, they found that follicles in people aged over 55 were also smaller, and lower in Collagen 17A1. "We assume that ageing processes and mechanisms explain the human age-associated hair thinning and hair loss," Nishimura said.  Hair follicle stem cells are now likely to be used as a model for studying more general stem cell behaviour. Researchers are keen to point out that stem cell depletion is unlikely to be the only cause of hair loss, but suggest that Collagen 17A1 could be used as a target for hair loss treatments.    To read full story Click Here Credit Emily Reynolds  
A 10-minute cancer test which can be taken at home using just a drop of saliva is being developed by scientists. David Wong, a professor of oncology at California State University says it is possible to detect tumour DNA when is it circulating in bodily fluids – an approach known as a liquid biopsy. The saliva test is 100 per cent accurate and is so simple that it could be carried out at a pharmacist, the dentist or even in the privacy of someone's own home if they were concerned, he said. Currently scientists can only use blood tests to detect cancer if they have already taken a biopsy and sequenced a tumour, so they know which genetic signature to look for. Although this can be used to monitor cancer spread it cannot be used for an initial test. And it can throw up false positive. Professor Wong's tests have shown that just a single drop of saliva contains enough data to give a definitive diagnosis as soon as a tumour develops, he said. The test is non-invasive and cheap, costing around just £15. It is due to enter full clinical trials in lung cancer patients later this year, and is expecting approval within two years from the Food and Drug Administration in America. He is hoping it will be available in Britain by the end of the decade, and believes it could be useful for many other cancers, such as oral cancer. “If there is circulating signature of a tumour in a person blood or saliva, this test will find it,” Professor Wong told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington. “We need less than one drop of saliva and we can turn the test around in 10 minutes. It can be done in a doctor’s office while you wait. “Early detection is crucial. Any time you gain in finding out that someone has a life-threatening cancer, the sooner the better.   To read full story Click Here Credit Sarah Knapton      
In “I’ve Seen The Future Of Healthcare. I Like What I See,” I noted ZOOM+ had a radically different approach to emergency rooms. Now that ZOOM+ is also a health plan, it’s logical that they would go after one of the biggest areas of unnecessary and expensive care—the ER. Rather than viewing it as a profit engine, they simply view their ER as one of the important pieces of the puzzle in building the Kaiser Permanente for the 21st century . This new approach implicitly addresses the Quadruple Aim more effectively than any other ER I’ve seen or heard about. I expect this approach to ERs will be a new component of the Health Rosetta that raises the bar on the under-performing status quo. As you visit their facilities or see the pictures in this article, I’m struck with the thought that if Steve Jobs was creating a clinic or an ER, ZOOM+ is what he would have created. The radical simplicity of this and the Transparent Medical Network that was highlighted in “The Silver Bullet To Solving Healthcare’s Most Vexing Problem” are the two most straightforward ways I’ve seen to slay the healthcare cost beast. One could imagine how next generation health plans such as Alignment Healthcare, CareMore, Clover Health, Humana’s Medicare Advantage (where they partner with ChenMed and Iora Health) and Oscar would employ these two strategies. Not only does it save money, it also would serve a “ billboard” for these new brands. There aren’t many “try before you buy” options available to healthcare. This would be one. [Disclosure: As I've disclosed many times, the Health Rosetta is a non-commercial open-source project that provides a reference model for how purchasers of healthcare should procure health services. In my role as managing partner of Healthfundr, a seed stage venture fund, we invest in companies adhering to precepts of the Health Rosetta.]   In the earlier piece, I summarized what ZOOM+ is doing with their ZOOM+ Super ER concept that is meant to radically reduce unnecessary hospitalizations. Unlike many new freestanding ER concepts that do little to positively impact the Quadruple Aim, it’s clear that the ZOOM+ Super concept is designed to be pleasant for the board-certified ER docs. This naturally leads to a better patient experience, which in turn helps improve outcomes. The byproduct is an approach that clearly lowers overall healthcare spending. That stands in stark contrast to many freestanding ERs where there has been quite a bit of abuse. To read full story Click Here Credit Dave Chase
A plant-based ointment recipe pulled from a 1,000-year-old manuscript is spiking excitement about what historical knowledge and traditional remedies can do to defuse the antibiotic crisis. At the same time, it’s highlighting how difficult it can be to move any compound—natural or synthetic, ancient or modern—from the lab bench to where it might do the most good. You might have seen coverage of this: At the annual conference of the British Society for General Microbiology last week, a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham in England and Texas Tech University in the United States presented the results of their attempt to translate and manufacture an ointment described in a medieval manuscript held at the British Library. (The abstract doesn’t seem to be online, except within the conference program, so I snipped it and uploaded it to my Scribd account here.) The text, called Bald’s Leechbook, is in Anglo-Saxon; you can think of it as one of the earliest medical textbooks written in the West. The recipe is presented as a remedy for styes, pustular infections of an eyelash follicle that, in the pre-antibiotic era—and the 10th century was definitely pre-antibiotics—could cause blindness or even death if the infection spread to the nearby brain. It specifies garlic, leek, onion, honey, and bile from the digestive system of a slaughtered cow, and describes in detail how the potion should be made, by boiling up a solution in a brass vessel and fermenting it. And, apparently, it works. The UK arm of the team translated the recipe, concocted it, and conducted initial tests on bacteria on culture plates. The US side tested it on infected tissue harvested from lab mice. In both settings, the potion killed MRSA, drug-resistant staph—and killed at higher rates than vancomycin, a last-ditch drug that medicine reserves for serious infections with that superbug. “We were really surprised, and I was surprised,” Christina Lee, PhD, a medieval scholar on the team, confessed by phone. “I have always held up the idea of the pragmatic Middle Ages, that they had knowledge and method, but I was not sure whether that would hold up.”   To read full story Click Here Credit Maryn McKenna  
An outbreak at a Pennsylvania hospital in late 2012 should have been an early warning that a reusable medical scope was spreading deadly infections and nearly impossible to disinfect. But staff at the federal Food and Drug Administration lost the report, one of multiple missteps that allowed doctors and hospitals to continue using the scope for three more years even as dozens of patients were sickened. The missing paperwork, revealed in a recent Senate inquiry, underscores the serious shortcomings in the antiquated national database used to monitor the safety of medical devices, which even the FDA has long admitted is flawed. But the fix called for by the Senate investigators — the speedy implementation of a new system already a decade in the making — has hit a roadblock put up by two powerful opponents who say an essential part of the safety upgrade will cost too much. Patients may now have to wait another decade for the new system, a delay that could lead to more patient deaths. "We need to build a better system to find these problems more quickly," said Dr. Josh Rising, director of healthcare programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Further postponement, he said, "could compromise the safety of millions of Americans." The device known as a duodenoscope is only the most recent example of a risky medical device that was used in tens of thousands of patients before regulators finally pinpointed a deadly problem in its design. Regulators did not warn hospitals about its risks until after The Times reported an outbreak at UCLA that killed three patients.   To read full story Click Here Credit Melody Petersen 
Imagine your child requires a life-saving operation. You enter the hospital and are confronted with a stark choice.    Do you take the traditional path with human medical staff, including doctors and nurses, where long-term trials have shown a 90% chance that they will save your child’s life?   Or do you choose the robotic track, in the factory-like wing of the hospital, tended to by technical specialists and an array of robots, but where similar long-term trials have shown that your child has a 95% chance of survival?   Most rational people would opt for the course of action that is more likely to save their child. But are we really ready to let machines take over from a human in delivering patient care?   Of course, machines will not always get it right. But like autopilots in aircraft, and the driverless cars that are just around the corner, medical robots do not need to be perfect, they just have to be better than humans.   So how long before robots are shown to perform better than humans at surgery and other patient care? It may be sooner, or it may be later, but it will happen one day.   But what does this mean for our hospitals? Are the new hospitals being built now ready for a robotic future? Are we planning for large-scale role changes for the humans in our future robotic factory-like hospitals?   To read full article Click Here   
Doctors train for years in order to be able to correctly diagnose cancer - but could they soon be replaced by pigeons?   Well, no. Obviously not.   However, scientists have now discovered that pigeons are surprisingly adept when it comes to spotting cancerous cells.   In a study led by Professor Richard Levenson of the University of California, pigeons were shown microscope images of breast tissue, and then rewarded with food if if they correctly pecked a coloured button that corresponded to either cancerous or healthy tissue.      In 15 daily sessions, each an hour long, the pigeons got the right answer 85 per cent of the time - with accuracy levels increased to 99 per cent when responses from a panel of four pigeons were pooled.   In their introduction to the study, Pigeons as Trainable Observers of Pathology and Radiology Breast Cancer Images, researchers said: "Although pigeons are unlikely to be called upon to offer clinical diagnostic support, it does seem quite possible that their discriminative abilities may be turned to a useful purpose."   To read full story Click Here   Credit Adam Boult
Red meat has been linked to cancer for decades, with research suggesting that eating large amounts of pork, beef or lamb raises the risk of deadly tumours. But for the first time scientists think they know what is causing the effect. The body, it seems, views red meat as a foreign invader and sparks a toxic immune response. Researchers have always been puzzled about how other mammals could eat a diet high in red meat without any adverse health consequences. Now they have discovered that pork, beef and lamb contains a sugar which is naturally produced by other carnivores but not humans. It means that when humans eat red meat, the body triggers an immune response to the foreign sugar, producing antibodies which spark inflammation, and eventually cancer. In other carnivores the immune system does not kick in, because the sugar – called Neu5Gc – is already in the body. Scientists at the University of California proved that mice which were genetically engineered so they did not produce Neu5Gc naturally developed tumours when they were fed the sugar. "This is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans increases spontaneous cancers in mice,” said Dr Ajit Varki, Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California. "The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by. "This work may also help explain potential connections of red meat consumption to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.   To read full story Click Here Credit Sarah Knapton, Science Editor