Tech Trends: Rehab

Rehab, short for Rehabilitation, refers to technological innovations implicitly designed for the purpose of rehabilitating patients with any treatable disorder pertaining to the brain and/or body.

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Game Therapy for Treating Chemobrain Shows Promising Results

Chemobrain is a term used to describe the brain fog many patients experience while undergoing chemotherapy. For some patients, the effects can continue for many years after the treatment has been completed. The Survirorship Research Group at the University of Sydney, Australia has just completed a study using game-based brain training software to help improve cognitive impairments after chemotherapy. The software, known as BrainHQ was developed by Posit Science and involves tracking objects on a screen and performing a variety of recall exercises that require a good deal of focus and concentration. In a randomized trial with 242 patients, half of the patients received traditional therapy alone while the other half did the exercises in BrainHQ in addition to their traditional therapy. At the end of the study, patients who did both forms of therapy had improved cognitive function and lower incidences of stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depression.

To see a sample of the BrainHQ software, watch the video above.

(Source: medGadget)

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FDA Approves Weight Loss Drainage System

Scale_STAT-1024x576The FDA has approved a new weight loss device which allows users to drain food from their stomachs before it begins to digest. The device, known as the AspireAssist, consists of a thin tube implanted into the stomach, connected to an outside port on the skin of the belly. 20 minutes after eating, users connect the port to an external device which drains recently ingested food into the toilet. The AspireAssist allows users to drain up to 30% of undigested food before it can cause weight gain.

In early trials, patients lost an average of 12% of their total bodyweight at the end of one year. These results are comparable with other popular weight loss surgeries including gastric bypass (patients lose about 34% of their total weight after a year) and reversible banding (14% after a year). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently determined that 38% of American adults are obese, and obesity can increase the risk of a number of health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Devices such as the AspireAssist can help obese patients who have been unsuccessful with traditional weight loss methods to achieve a healthy weight.

(Source: STAT)

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3D Printed Ovaries Can Produce Offspring

fertilized human eggAt the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Boston this month, a team of scientists presented on a groundbreaking study in which 3D printed ovaries were able to produce healthy offspring. In the pilot study which was performed on mice, the ovaries of the subjects were removed and replaced with the 3D printed ovaries. The mice were able to deliver healthy pups and nurse without any trouble.

After the success of the animal trials, the researchers are now looking to how these printed organs would work in humans. The prostheses would need to be rigid enough to be implanted during surgery, but flexible enough to allow eggs to develop.A gelatin-based scaffolding would have to be built, and implanted with cells cultured from humans, including follicles that produce estrogen and can contain the structures that will mature into eggs. If these bioprosthetics are successful, they could potentially cure both the hormonal and egg-producing causes of infertility.

(Source: Popular Science)

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3D Bioprinter Can Create Bone, Cartilage and Muscle

A team of researchers from Wake Forest University has developed a bioprinting tool that can 3D print synthetic tissue for bone, cartilage, and muscles. The synthetic tissue is made of biodegradable polymer and living cells. The research team used nozzles just a fraction of an inch wide to dab the mold into shape, while the 3D printer simultaneously creates an outer mold which dissolves once the tissue has hardened. A tissue lattice is left behind that is structurally sound but also contains tiny channels through which oxygen can reach the living cells. Additionally, researchers plan to take CT scans of patients’ bodies before printing to ensure properly fitted prosthesis.

The Wake Forest University team has been able to print an ear and part of a human jawbone. They were also able to successfully implant bone and muscle in rats and cartilage in mice, which had the positive result of the synthetic material integrating with the animals own tissue in a matter of weeks. The team is now working on using larger tissue samples and utilizing different types of cells so that the technology could be used on humans in the near future.

(Source: Popular Science )

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MIT Develops Hydrogel Band-Aid to Use on Joints

MIThydrogelOne of the greatest conflicts with traditional band-aids is how restrictive they can be. Specifically, a small lesion on the joints such as a cut, scrape, or graze on an elbow or knee cannot typically be covered using a traditional band-aid. The material used in band-aids does not naturally stretch with the skin and therefore offers insufficient coverage for joint areas. Now, researchers from MIT may have found a solution with a polyacrylamide hydrogel.

The hydrogel has been shown in tests to be highly biocompatible, and stuck in place even when adhered to bending joints such as the elbows or knees. Additionally, it can be used to house a variety of electrical components such as titanium wires, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and electronic chips. Researchers also hope to potentially add drug-delivering channels and reservoirs could be incorporated into the fabric of the hydrogel, which opens the door for smart wound dressings in the future.

(Source: IFL Science)


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Engineers Develop Cyber Expert System for Lower Limb Prostheses

prosthetic-tuningEngineers at the University of North Carolina/ North Carolina State University Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering have developed a cyber expert system (CES) that may one day replace humans in tuning lower limb prostheses. As more powered prostheses have been created, more and more human experts have been needed to help tune the prostheses so they are properly adjusted to best maintain a natural gait.

The software solution used for the CES can be built into any lower limb prosthetic, allowing the prosthetic to auto-tune itself. The system monitors the different angles knee and ankle joints can reach during different tasks and adjusts accordingly. The CES can also switch actions based on the user’s weight and gait, and can make minor adjustments through the step cycle.

In an initial study, the system was comparable to using an expert to tune the prostheses. However, the CES was better at setting proper joint angles, but human experts still fared better at adjusting trunk sway.

(Source: medGadget)

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Tufts University and the University of Sydney Develop Synthetic Joint Tissue

Biphasic-scaffoldResearchers from Tufts University and the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Research Unit at the University of Sydney have developed a synthetic material that may end up being used to replace joint tissue damaged by injury or disease. The material is made using bioactive ceramics and silk fibroin. The synthetic material is both porous and weight-bearing, mimicking the osteochondral tissue naturally found in joints. Additionally, the ceramic and silk allow stem cells a scaffold to begin regrowth, while the synthetic material naturally biodegrades over time, allowing for bone and cartilage to fill in the space.

(Source: medGadget)

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Transmedics’ Organ Care System Improves Organ Transplants

Traditionally, organs donors who died a circulatory death (one in which the heart stops working) were not viable for transplants. The reasoning behind this is that once the heart dies, all other organs quickly die as well due to a lack of oxygen. Now, a company known as Transmedics has developed what they are calling the “Organ Care System.” The system works by securing the heart in a sterile, humidity- and temperature-controlled chamber which mimics the conditions inside of the human body. The system also contains a supply of organ donor blood that is infused with oxygen and other essential nutrients which help keep the heart alive and beating.

In Australia and Europe, the system has aided in 15 successful heart transplants, and is still in trials in the US. The system can also be used to support lungs, kidneys, and livers before transplants. The Organ Care system will likely increase the number of available viable organs for transplant.

(Source: Popular Science)

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ReWalk Personal 6.0 Tested for Usability

Israel-based ReWalk Robotics has put their ReWalk Personal 6.0 to the ultimate test– a paralyzed man strapped the exoskeleton suit on and walked through New York City’s midtown amid other pedestrians. While the suit garnered some stares, few people went out of their way to avoid the man, proving the suit’s ability to be integrated into daily, community life.

The ReWalk Personal 6.0 uses servos in the hips and knees to provide walking power, and accelerometers to detect when a user has shifted their weight and is ready to take another step. As an improvement to its predecessors the device has slimmed down, the support straps distribute weight more evenly and improve gait, and the battery pack has been reduced so that it can fit in a fanny pack. The device, which unlike its competitors is meant for home use, has different settings for sitting, standing, walking, and climbing stairs (though the stair mode has not yet been approved by US regulators). While the list price is quite expensive–$77,000, and unlikely to be covered by insurance–the device can vastly improve the quality of life for paralyzed patients.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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MIT Develops Slow-Release Drug Delivery Dissolving Intestinal Ring

mit-gastric-devices-1_0In recent years, researchers have been experimenting with different methods for long-term, controlled drug delivery. Some researchers have had success with surgical implants that slowly pump medicine into the blood stream. Now, a research team from MIT has has developed a biodegradable, ring-like device made of a polymer that can deliver drugs to the stomach over the course of a week without putting the patient at risk.

The device is made of a nontoxic, degradable polyester gel and is designed to be flexible. The ring-shaped device is swallowed like a pill and unfurls in the stomach to a size larger than the opening connecting the stomach to the intestines, preventing the ring from potentially causing intestinal blockage. The device is also pH-activated and made to withstand the acidity of the stomach, but will dissolve in the pH-neutral intestines, minimizing the risk of blockage and infections. A prototype of the device was tested in pigs, and the ring expanded within 15 minutes and lasted for seven days before dissolving easily.

MIT is beginning negotiations with a biotechnical company to bring the device to the market, allowing for the release of drugs for up to 30 days. Researchers also believe the device could have other medical uses such as developing ingestible electronics to monitor conditions.

(Source: Popular Science)

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STIM Band Helps Alleviate the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

stimbandIn the past, patients whose Parkinson’s disease symptoms had become crippling had to rely on brain surgery in order to get relief. The necessary surgery utilizes electrical lead implants and a pacemaker-like device that is installed in the brain to send electrical impulses to the motor regions of the brain. This type of electrical stimulation has been shown to improve many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s for patients. However, surgery comes with many risks, among them infection. Now, researchers from Johns Hopkins University have developed a device to control many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s without surgery.

The device, called the STIM band, uses a technique known as non-invasive transcranial direct current stimulation to transmit low-level electrical currents directly to the motor cortex of the brain without the need for surgery. Because Parkinson’s often affects one side of the brain more than the other, the device can be programmed to send targeted electrical currents to just one side. The device would ideally be worn by patients for 20 minutes each day in the comfort of their own home. The STIM band still requires placebo studies to determine the true effectiveness of the device as well as any side effects which might occur. However, the developers believe that in the future, the device could be used in conjunction with Parkinson’s medication to control many of the symptoms.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Tablo Dialysis Receives FDA Clearance

Dialysis is a difficult but life-extending treatment for patients with renal failure. Patients receiving dialysis have to visit dialysis centers around three times a week, and each session lasts between three and five hours. Now, Outset Medical is aiming to improve the dialysis process by receiving FDA clearance for its Tablo Dialysis device. The device, known as The Tablo System, is a consumer-friendly version of the dialysis machines used in hospitals. The Tablo has many automated processes, so the system operator only has to perform half of the traditional steps. The device also has a large touchscreen with instructions and animations, making the system even easier to use.

Outset Medical hopes to expand its FDA clearance so patients and caretakers can purchase the product and use it at home, minimizing the time-consuming nature of the procedure.

(Source: medGadget)

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New Kinect Games Help Physical Therapy Patients

Close to 70% of patients requiring physical therapy are non-compliant with regard to home exercises. Simple movements such as arm flexes and sitting and standing are considered tedious by most patients, but it is these exercises that speed up recovery and prevent future injuries. Now, researchers from MIRA rehab have developed a series of games to be used with the Xbox Kinect to increase patient participation in rehabilitation exercises. The games are customizable, and therapists can work virtually with their clients, as well as check in on client activity. To watch developer Cosmin Mihaiu’s TED talk about the program

(Source: TED)

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3D Printing Helps Wounded Turtle

3D printing has come a long way in the field of healthcare, helping to create affordable prosthesis and bio-compatible scaffolds for damaged bone and tissue. Now, the advancement has helped to save a wounded turtle found near Turkey. The turtle had been hit by a boat’s propeller–typically a life-ending event for most sea turtles–but was rescued and brought to Pamukkale University’s Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation center in Denizli, Turkey. The center collaborated with Turkish company, Btech Innovation to send scans of the turtle’s wounded jaw and damaged bones. Btech Innovation used the scans to create a 3D printed, titanium jaw for the wounded turtle, then mailed the piece to the rescue site. At press time, the turtle was healing nicely from the injury, and provided its body does not reject the 3D printed jaw, the turtle should be back to its home in the ocean.

The rescue efforts here provide an excellent example of how 3D printing could one day provide emergency aid to those in remote locations with badly broken bones or injuries that required amputation. To learn more about the rescue and how the titanium jaw was printed, click on the video above.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Nanoparticles Help to Stop Internal Bleeding During Blast Injuries

steroid-loaded-nanoparticlesExplosions and blasts are the primary source of injury commonly faced by American soldiers on the battlefield today. Specifically, internal bleeding in the lungs can lead to irreversible damage and death if not treated immediately, which is often the case for many soldiers. Military hospitals are often miles away blast sites, preventing soldiers from being transported in time to stop and treat internal bleeding.

Researchers from Case Western University and Virginia Tech have developed hemostatic dexamethasone nanoparticles   (DNP) that were loaded with corticosteroids and injected to help stop internal clot formation and reduce inflammation in the lungs. In a trial using lab rats, rats who were given the nanoparticles had higher blood oxygen levels, less internal bleeding, and less cell tissue damage than those in the control group.

(Source: medGadget)

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Lightweight, Affordable Exoskeleton Helps to Alleviate Pressure While Walking

In recent years, exoskeletons have been gaining popularity in the medical field because of their capacity to rehabilitate the partially or fully paralyzed, as well as aiding in the rehab of injured patients. However, these exoskeleton suits are often quite expensive and involve much complicated machinery. Additionally, their size and weight make them ideal for patients who are mostly immobile, rather than patients in need of extra help while walking.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and North Carolina State University are developing a cheaper, lightweight solution via a “power boot.” The power boot is worn over the calf and shin and uses a clutch and spring to mimic the motion of the Achilles tendon. The boot can reduce the overall energy needed to walk by about 7 percent, or the equivalent of removing a 10-pound backpack load. Because of the small, lightweight size and lack of complex mechanical components, the developers are planning to market the device to those with limited mobility in one limb, older adults who are trying to continue an active lifestyle, or hikers and athletes who want to go longer distances with less strain on their joints. The expected cost for the power boot will be between several hundred and several thousand dollars, as opposed to current exoskeletons which cost between $40,000 and $80,000.

(Source: Popular Science)

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New Injectable Polymer Rapidly Stops Severe Bleeding

blood-clotWhile there are various materials that are used to quickly stop traumatic bleeding (for instance bleeding from a gunshot wound), researchers from the University of Washington are working on a new polymer that can not only stop severe bleeding, but will also allow the body to return to homeostasis more rapidly than other techniques. The injectable polymer, known as PolySTAT, works by fusing fibrin strands to each other and creating links between the clumps. The fibrin forms a strong web that can withstand the pressure of a heavily-bleeding wound pressing against the clot. The material is promising, and in early trials, lab rats who experienced potentially-lethal arterial bleeding had a 100% survival rate with the PolySTAT, versus a 20% survival rate in rats with the same injury who were treated with albumin.

(Source: medGadget)

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Engineers at Vanderbilt University Create a Magnetically Controlled Robotic Instrument

A team of engineers from Vanderbilt University have developed a new surgical tool that goes beyond the standard endoscopic techniques to allow for truly internal surgery. The new tool is a surgical retractor whose small size allows it to be injected directly into the abdominal cavity and controlled remotely using a joystick. A handheld joystick powers the retractor through the use of a magnet which allows it to steer, and a cylindrical magnet mechanized by a motor that can turn a screw, and the screw drives a mechanism which can pull . After the device’s insertion into the body, the joystick is placed on the stomach above the retractor, allowing a surgeon to control the device. The device is still in developmental stages, but the video above features the lead engineers explaining the logistics of the device and demonstrating its use.

(Source: medGadget)

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Three Men in Vienna Receive Mind-Controlled Robotic Arms

Three men in Vienna have received mind-controlled robotic arms as part of a new technique known as bionic reconstruction. The three men all had their original limbs, but suffered from brachial plexus injuries which affected the nerve that runs from the armpit into the arm. The bionic reconstruction had three phases that ended in the patients receiving bionic arms that completely interfaced with their nervous system, allowing them to control their new arm with just their brain.

The three phases occurred over a nine month period that involved intense, cognitive training. Patients first learned how to control a virtual hand using electrical signals, then learned to use a hybrid hand– a sort of secondary hand that attached to the patients’ non-functioning hand, and finally patients underwent voluntary amputation of their non-functioning hand to be fitted with a myoelectric prosthetic limb. The new hand allowed the patients to perform every day tasks that they had been unable to perform before receiving the bionic limb. For more information and to see how the bionic limb works, click on the video above.

(Source: CNET)

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