11 innovative medical devices you need to know from 2018
Call it digital health or mHealth or simply what it is — innovation. Last year we saw a lot of innovative wireless devices for diagnostics and treatment as research and development flourished.
Many researchers have taken up the challenge of developing devices that are portable, small and convenient with ease-of-use that could revolutionize point-of-care diagnostics .
From a defibrillator for stroke to a smartphone app that can detect infectious diseases, here are 11 innovative medical devices that got our attention in 2018.
Defibrillator for stroke
Researchers and clinical investigators Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Mount Sinai and the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center reported that patients who had a large-vessel occlusion and used the Cerebrotech Visor could be sent to a comprehensive stroke center that had the capabilities to treat stroke.
The device had better potential of identifying occlusion when compared to standard physical examination that has only shown 40% to 89% accuracy in identifying large-vessel occlusion. Portable and visor-like, the Cerebrotech Visor has shown potential for detecting emergent large-vessel occlusion with 92% accuracy in patients who might have had a stroke.
Cerebrotech Visor is a volumetric impedance phase shift (VIPS) spectroscopy device that sends low energy radio waves through the brain. The radio waves change frequency when passing through fluids. The waves are then able to be reflected back through the brain and be detected by the system’s VIPS device. If a patient is experiencing a severe stroke, the fluid in the brain changes and creates asymmetric radio waves that the Cerebrotech Visor can detect. The more asymmetric the waves are, the more severe of a stroke the patient is experiencing.
The researchers on the study suggest that the device could provide better outcomes following a stroke if emergency medical personnel in the field could use it. The Cerebrotech Visor’s accuracy helps emergency personnel make a decision on where a patient should be taken since it is not necessarily the law to take them directly to a comprehensive stroke center.
Pacemaker for the brain
Engineers at the University of California Berkeley developed a neurostimulator that can listen to and stimulate electric current in the brain simultaneously to deliver fine-tuned treatments to patients who have neurological diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson’s.
The device is a wireless, artifact-free neuromodulation device (WAND) that works like a pacemaker in the brain by monitoring electrical activity while delivering stimulation as needed. It is wireless and autonomous, which means it is able to recognize the signs of a tremor or seizure and adjust stimulation to prevent any unwanted movements.
So far, the device has only been tested on monkeys, but it has shown to be capable of detecting neural signatures and delivering electrical stimulation.
Tattoo-like, glucose monitoring sensor
Diabetes tracking can be a scary and tedious task, but University of California at San Diego researchers have developed a needless glucose monitor tattoo sensor that measures insulin levels through sweat on the skin.
The patch is applied like a temporary tattoo to measure blood sugar without the need for the pricks. It features patterned electrodes that are printed directly on temporary tattoo paper.
Non-invasive migraine treatment device
ElectroCore launched its gammaCore Sapphire non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator in 2018. The device was the first non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator device to be cleared by the FDA for acute treatment of migraines and episodic cluster headaches.
The gammaCore Sapphire device is portable and easy-to-use and is able to be self-administered by patients as needed for pain. It offers no side effects, unlike pain medications. It is a small, handheld device that has an easy grip and smoother stimulation surfaces for easy placement over the vagus nerve. There are also intensity buttons on the side of the device that allow for therapy adjustments and a larger, brighter display to show status information.
For headache relief, users place the device on the neck over the vagus nerve to stimulate the nerve fibers and reduce pain.
The gammaCore Sapphire can be used for multiple years and has a rechargeable function with a reloadable refill capacity. It is activated monthly through a unique, prescription-only authorization code that is delivered through a radio-frequency identification (RFID) card sent through the mail to the patient.
GammaCore Sapphire is prescribed by a physician and allows for treatment of multiple headaches up to 24 stimulations a day.
Building blocks are making plug-and-play diagnostic devices
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a set of modular blocks that are able to be connected in a number of configurations to create different diagnostic devices. The devices are considered plug-and-play and vary in uses, including blood glucose testing and viral infection and other disease detection.
The blocks, called Ampli blocks, are being used to create device to detect cancer, Zika virus and other infectious disease. The MIT researchers say that the blocks are inexpensive and cost about 6 cents for four blocks. They do not need to be refrigerated or have special handling, which means they can be beneficial in developing countries.
The MIT-developed components have a sheet of paper or glass fiber pressed between a plastic or metal block and a glass cover. The blocks are about half and inch on each side and are able to be snapped together along each side as well. Some of the blocks may feature channels for samples to flow through, while other blocks may have turns and can get a sample from a pipette.
Ampli blocks can perform a number of biochemical functions. They can contain antibodies that can detect different molecules in blood and urine samples. The antibodies connect to nanoparticles that change color if a certain molecule is present.
The MIT researchers discovered that they can bring diagnostic tests to more people if they designed them in a kit with modular components that can be put together to create exactly what a user needs. So far, the researchers have created about 40 different building blocks that labs around the world can assemble on their own, much like when people built their own radios and electronic devices from electronic “breadboards” in the 1970s.
Ingestible bacteria-on-a-chip diagnoses gastrointestinal diseases
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed an ingestible sensor that has engineered bacteria that can diagnose bleeding in the stomach and has the potential to diagnose other gastrointestinal problems.
The system, being called bacteria-on-a-chip, uses sensors with living cells and ultra-low power electronics that can convert a bacterial response into wireless signals that can be read by a smartphone.
A study of the bacteria-on-a-chip showed that the sensor responded to heme and worked in a pig. The sensors could also respond to a molecule that is a marker of inflammation.
So far, the researchers have tested the chip on pigs and have shown that they could see whether there was blood in the stomach or not. The researchers hope that this type of sensor could either be used for a one-time use or for staying in the digestive tract for several days or weeks while sending continuous wireless signals.
Wireless system powers devices inside the body
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers and Brigham and Women’s Hospital scientists have developed a wireless, ingestible system that can power and communicate with devices that are implanted deep within the body. The researchers suggest that the system could be used to deliver drugs, monitor conditions inside the body or treat diseases by stimulating the brain with electricity or light.
The implants are powered by radio frequency waves that can safely pass through human tissue. The waves are able to power devices that are 10 cm deep in tissue from 1 meter away.
Since the devices don’t need a battery, they can be made tiny. The researchers tested a prototype that was about the size of a grain of rice, but they hope to make the devices smaller in the future.