TOP 20 HEALTHCARE TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES IN 2018
The medical sector is benefiting from many achievements in 2018. Here are 20 that are sure to reshape the industry at large soon and in the future.
1. A DISCOVERY OF THE GENES THAT MAKE CANCER METASTASIZE
Researchers at the University of Alberta have identified 11 genes responsible for cancer’s spread. They propose that by inhibiting the identified gene targets, it’s possible to prevent more than 99.5 percent of metastasis.
2. A DNA TEST THAT PREDICTS THE LIKELIHOOD OF DRUG-BASED SIDE EFFECTS
The potential side effects of some drugs can be as severe as the ailments they treat. However, researchers at Japan’s Tohoku University developed a DNA test for East Asian patients taking thiopurine drugs, which suppress abnormal immune system activities.
Scientists say the DNA test is simple and particularly useful for the East Asian population since people from that group tend to have more severe side effects than Caucasians, even when taking smaller doses.
3. A SIMULATOR TO AID IN SUCCESSFUL CARDIAC SURGERIES
Surgeons depend on healthcare technology to help them plan interventions and know what to expect when their patients are on operating tables. The Super Beat training simulator mimics a beating heart with extraordinary accuracy by using an artificial muscle wired to electricity.
Although surgeons have already used this simulator in workshops, the companies involved plan to bring Super Beat to the market in 2019.
4. AN INEXPENSIVE WAY TO DIAGNOSE HEPATITIS B
Methods of diagnosing Hepatitis B can cost as much as $500, making them too costly for people in developing nations
Researchers have made strides in reducing the cost by engineering a $20 test that takes two blood-based screenings to provide people with an accurate diagnostic score for the disease. This new method, called TREAT-B, identifies patients who need treatment for Hepatitis B with 85 percent accuracy.
5. PROGRESS WITH ARTIFICIAL OVARIES
Women who are at risk for becoming infertile from treatments like chemotherapy often choose to remove their ovaries completely or partially, then frozen and transplanted back later. However, that method carries the chance of the transplant containing cancerous cells and reintroducing cancer after the procedure.
Danish scientists have relied upon healthcare technology to grow ovarian follicles on an engineered section of tissue that only contains protein and collagen and has had the cancer cells removed. They’ve successfully transplanted the artificial ovaries into mice and hope to test them with humans in the next three to four years.
6. CHANGING BRAIN CHEMICAL IMBALANCES IN DRUG ADDICTS
Scientists know habitual drug users find it difficult to stop taking substances, despite negative consequences, and say that’s because the drugs cause changes to brain chemistry.
Now, researchers have announced they’ve developed an intervention called a serotonin 2C receptor therapeutic that restores the weakened signals in the brain drug use causes. As a result, people getting this treatment may engage in fewer drug-seeking behaviors, making recovery a more attainable goal. It’s proven effective in mice so far.
7. MORE USER-FRIENDLY AND SPECIALIZED APPS
Healthcare technology has spurred the development of numerous lifesaving apps, such as those that remind people to take their medication, teach them best practices for first aid or give them access to doctors who see patients via telemedicine.
There’s a pre-screening app for autism that lets parents assess their kids without medical assistance, too. It’s called Autism & Beyond and involves gauging a child’s reaction to integrated stimuli. However, it’s not meant to replace a physician’s guidance.
8. USING COMMON BACTERIA FOR MEDICAL IMAGING PURPOSES
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology created genetically engineered versions of the salmonella and E. coli bacteria for sound waves to bounce off and be sent back using an ultrasound. This advancement in healthcare technology means doctors could potentially see things happening in parts of the body that were previously not suitable for visual monitoring during efforts to fight diseases and track how they spread.
9. MARIJUANA-BASED EPILEPSY DRUG EARNS FDA APPROVAL
An epilepsy-treating medication called Epidiolex is derived from cannabis and has the distinction of being the first drug of its kind to get approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It treats two rare forms of childhood epilepsy and notably does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes people high.
10. THE CONTINUED WIDESPREAD ADOPTION OF ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS
Electronic health records (EHR) is one of the many healthcare technologies that benefit both patients and doctors alike. Web-based EHR systems offer various advantages, such as increased efficiency and better quality of care.
The most competitive EHR companies in the marketplace regularly release offerings that cater to hospitals and doctors offices’ that need quick, secure and reliable access to patient records. A report published in June 2018 indicates that by 2025, the overall electronic health records market will be worth more than $38 billion.
11. THE POSSIBILITY OF USING DRUGS TO TREAT HEARING LOSS
Traditional treatments for hearing loss typically involve wearable devices, such as hearing aids. However, a company called Decibel Therapeutics is in the process of raising funding for innovations its representatives say could broaden the treatment options.
The establishment reportedly has drugs in development that might benefit people with various types of hearing loss. It has already noticed improvements related to hearing loss caused by medication when testing the drugs in mice.
12. MORE APPLICATIONS OF VIRTUAL REALITY IN MEDICINE
2017 saw medical practitioners depending on virtual reality (VR) to help people feel calmer before surgeries, make rehabilitation treatments more pleasant and treat addictions, among other applications. People can expect 2018 to bring more of the same. For example, an emergency room in France is using VR to reduce patients’ dependence on pain-relieving medications.
13. INCREASED USES FOR BIG DATA
Data collection is instrumental in the health sector on both the patient and practitioner side of things. For example, a person wearing an insulin monitoring device could receive historical information that indicates they aren’t properly managing their diabetes.
Also, hospital emergency rooms and first responder dispatch centers frequently depend on big data to provide more efficient assistance to those who need it most. This trend will continue through 2018 and beyond.
14. A PROACTIVE WAY TO IDENTIFY INSTANCES OF SPASTIC CEREBRAL PALSY
A small study of children with spastic cerebral palsy indicated a new method of sequencing blood samples could be a more efficient way of diagnosing the disorder than the options that currently exist.
Most children with cerebral palsy have it from birth but may not receive diagnoses until they are at least two years old. However, this new health care technology advancement predicted instances of cerebral palsy in kids with 73 percent accuracy. That result could allow kids with cerebral palsy and their families to pursue treatments faster than before.
15. AN INJECTION FOR MIGRAINE HEADACHES THAT REDUCES FREQUENCY
Some participants in a clinical trial for a drug that gets injected monthly to cut down on the number of migraine headaches noticed a reduction of up to 50 percent. The drug, which is a synthetic antibody called Erenumab, works by blocking the pain signals the body sends during migraines.
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16. SCIENTISTS FIND BRAIN CELLS RESPONSIBLE FOR ANXIETY LEVELS
People get anxious for a wide variety of reasons, and a discovery associated with the brain cells of mice might cause better understanding of how anxiety affects the brain and bring about better ways to treat it.
The researchers found brain cells in the bottom of the hippocampus were especially active in anxious mice. They then discovered a way to increase the cells’ activity, which turned out to make the anxiety worse.
Human experiments don’t always turn out the same way as those that use mice for testing. However, the hope is that this discovery might lead to better anxiety interventions for people.
17. A PILL THAT MAY ELIMINATE TYPE 1 DIABETES INJECTIONS
Insulin injections become familiar to many people living with Type 1 diabetes, but thanks to healthcare technology, they may soon be able to take pills to meet their insulin regulation needs instead.
Scientists developed an insulin pill that resists the harsh acids in a person’s gut and delivers the medicine to the small intestine for adequate absorption. The research team has only tested the product on animals but hopes to get approval for clinical trials soon.
18. AN ORAL TREATMENT THAT REDUCES PEANUT ALLERGY EFFECTS
People with peanut allergies know to avoid the nuts at all costs to prevent complications. However, a study involving peanut-allergic kids found that when they consumed capsules containing peanut flour, 67 percent of them could tolerate two peanuts at the end of the investigation.
The theory is that if a person’s system could adapt to tolerate at least one peanut, it will substantially minimize the chances of life-threatening reactions.
19. A FAST-ACTING INFLUENZA PILL
People who come down with the flu can take a medicine called Tamiflu to get relief. It makes the symptoms more tolerable but still requires two doses a day for five days. In contrast, a Japanese laboratory called Shionogi & Co. has demonstrated the latest in healthcare technology by creating a pill that gets rid of the flu virus in an average of 24 hours and only requires one dose.
Although both Tamiflu and this new drug take about the same amount of time to contain the flu virus fully, developers say the emerging option provides near-immediate relief, and that killing the virus faster cuts down on its contagious effects.
20. A SIMPLER WAY TO DETECT COGNITIVE DECLINE
Mild cognitive decline (MCI) is sometimes merely a sign of old age that manifests as significant memory loss. However, as many as 50 percent of patients with MCI end up developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A new app aims to highlight instances of MCI by exposing patients to visual and auditory stimuli and detecting the speed at which they notice those things. For example, a person could push a button to indicate seeing a light or hearing a sound.
Researchers say there is more work to do to perfect the application. However, it could eventually be used on smartphones and in the home environment as a pre-screening tool before going to a doctor’s appointment for further testing.
MANY REASONS TO FEEL HOPEFUL
The midpoint of 2018 has only just passed, but this list proves medical researchers are hard at work exploring the latest possibilities in healthcare technology and assessing how those things could treat people who have various kinds of ailments, including chronic illnesses.
These advancements bring hope to patients and their families who feel encouraged by the promise of these improvements, even though some haven’t reached the human trial phases yet.