Jul 13 2008

Biotic Antibiotics – Phages to the Rescue ?

Filed under: Aging topics, Antibiotics, Hospital Care, Treatment modalities

T4 Phage Thousands of hospitals and communities are now grappling with the fruits of our success with antibiotics… deadly bacterial resistance. Some people think methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) and its terrifying descendant vancomycin resistant staph aureus (VRSA) are threatening to return the world to the dark ages before penicillin and sulfa were discovered.

Now, some researchers are looking back in time to the early 20th century to find treatments that can potentially overcome the problems of bacterial antibiotic resistance and can give us new paradigms in the treatment of infectious diseases. The idea of using viruses as therapeutic agents may even go beyond treatment of bacterial infections to the potential of treating other important and debilitating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 06 2008

Snakes on a (Surgical) Plain

Filed under: Cardiology, Treatment modalities

CardioARM(tm) Laparoscopic and robotic surgery has been the standard for a number of abdominal and pelvic surgical procedures for some time, but researchers are now pushing the envelope further with “keyhole” and “pinhole” surgery using ever smaller and more flexible robotic tools. One recent advance, called CardioARM(tm), is being developed jointly by Carnegie Mellon University and Cardiorobotics, Inc. The CardioARM(tm) is a Cardiac Articulated Robotics MedProbe.
This articulated snake-like robot has a series of joints that automatically adjust to follow the course plotted by the robot’s head. This provides greater precision than any flexible endoscope can offer. The robot is operated using a computer and a joystick. It reportedly has 102 degrees of freedom, three of which can be activated at once. This allows the “snake” to enter through a single point in the chest and wrap around the heart until it reaches the right spot to perform the procedure. The “snake-like” design allows each joint to follow exactly where the previous joint went in 3-dimensional space, so that you can thread your way to the critical location and not have to worry about the “body” of the snake “bumping into” an important anatomic structure or tissue. A working channel or lumen in the probe, allows tools to pass through and perform various procedures. Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 02 2008

Are you ready for the NEXT wave of RFID ?

Filed under: Hospital Care, Pharmaceuticals

RFID ChipMost people have experienced the 1st wave of RFID technology without realizing it. Radio Frequency IDentification has been used by retail businesses to deter shoplifters and for inventory purposes for many years. RFID tags are what sound the store alarm when you walk out of a store with unpaid merchandise, and what identifies your car (and charges your account) when you drive through the expressway toll booths with your E-Z Pass. WalMart has mandated that suppliers affix RFID tags to all goods shipped to the behemoth for inventory and retail sales tracking all the way to the customer. But the brave new world of pervasive computing is bringing a tsunami that will soon wash over the entire health care system.. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 19 2008

An Implantable Pharmacy

Filed under: Cancer, Pharmaceuticals, Treatment modalities

Film Researchers

Kris Wood, Paula Hammond and Dan Schmidt at MIT (photo – Donna Coveney)

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a nanotechnology film that has the potential to deliver drugs for cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and many other conditions “on-demand”. The film can be remotely activated by applying a small electric field and release medication in controlled amounts, possibly in response to embedded sensors in the body. Imagine a whole “pharmacy” of medication customized for a specific patient on a flexible, implantable, biodegradable membrane. The research was recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and is generating interest in many quarters. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 11 2008

What if we were transparent?

Filed under: Cancer, Cardiology, Imaging

Transparent skull
We all know about sending sound waves through body tissues and analyzing the reflections with an ultrasound machine. The computer software and processor of the ultrasound machine then recreates a “picture” of what is inside. Ever wonder why can’t we just send light waves into a person and “see” what is inside in the same way? Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 29 2008

Non-Invasive Cardiac Output Monitoring

Filed under: Cardiology, Intensive care, Screening and Diagnosis

An Israeli company has recently received FDA approval for a bedside non-invasive monitor that can give real-time cardiac output determinations. The system, called the Cheetah Reliant(tm) provides continuous tracking of cardiac output and other important measures of heart function including left ventricular ejection time, heart rate and cardiac contractility. Instead of having to place a Swan-Ganz catheter for invasive monitoring in the intensive care unit or cath lab, the unit relies on enhancement of of a bioimpedance measurement. Bioimpedance based measurements of cardiac output have been based on the relationship between transthoracic voltage and current measured between two electrodes placed on the patient’s chest wall.

NICOM Electrode placement

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Jan 21 2008

Rapid Screening for Cognitive Impairment

Filed under: Aging topics, Screening and Diagnosis

Alzheimer ScreeningOne of the tasks in need of faster and better quality technology is the evaluation of individuals for evidence of cognitive impairment. Obvious examples include the high school football player who may have had a mild concussion in that last play. He seems generally all right, but a little dazed. Should he be allowed to finish the game, or should he be sent to the emergency room for medical screening? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a simple, on-the-sidelines screening test for evidence of cognitive impairment?

And what about that 60 year old executive who comes into the office for his routine checkup complaining that he doesn’t feel he is as ‘sharp’ as he used to be, and wonders if he could be getting Alzheimer’s disease? How much time is it going to take to really assess whether his perceived memory impairment is ‘normal for his age’, or if he actually has a greater cognitive deficit than expected? Recently, a computerized, portable testing technology proposes to greatly facilitate the speed and quality of such real-time assessments. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 11 2008

Google your medical record?

Filed under: Electronic medical records

The push for online medical records is on. The government, insurers and employers want your medical information in electronic form. Hospitals, doctors and yes, patients also have an interest in the process. But, who will (or who should) control your health care information — you ? your doctor ? your employer ? your insurance company ? the government ? Or all of the above ? And what form will the electronic system that records and stores (and then regurgitates..) your data take? The potential benefits are many, but the risks are also substantial, both for the individual, and for the society as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 06 2008

Super Scanners

Filed under: Imaging

Phillips skull scan

In the world of medicine, imaging technology drives diagnosis and treatment. Since the advent of the first CT (computerized tomography) scan, new devices have been measured by the triple mantra of (1) image resolution, (2) speed of image capture and (3) lowering of radiation exposure necessary for the image. The quest to stay on top of the game is not unlike that in the computer world where faster, smaller processors do more things with less power. New generations of super scanners are producing dramatic new images that are changing the view of our “internal world”. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 04 2008

Vaccines for Addictions

Filed under: Addiction, Vaccines

Addiction, whether to alcohol, nicotine or illicit drugs, continues to be an intractable personal and societal problem despite tremendous efforts to find viable, effective solutions. Legal, pharmacological and behavioral approaches have had limited success when pitted against the power of dopamine flowing in the brain. For the past decade an innovative cadre of researchers have been pursuing the idea of vaccines to help prevent addiction. Read the rest of this entry »