Medical researchers have produced some amazing technological advances in recent years. However, many of these seem to be overshadowed in the media, which always focuses on future innovations and the search for miracle cures. Here, I thought I would highlight what I think are some of the best innovations in modern medicine and healthcare which are making a difference to professionals and patients today.
The Argus ‘Bionic Eye’ prosthetic.
Second Sight Medical products, based in the US, have been developing revolutionary prosthetics to help visually impaired people gain back some of their lost sight. At present, the improvements aren’t enormous, and clinical trial patients reported a range of side effects, but I think that this is an exciting step forward with great potential.
The Argus is implanted into the patient’s eye. It is attached to a camera worn on a pair of sunglasses; the camera transforms visual information into pulses of electricity, which then stimulates the cells in the patient’s eye. The cells and brain of the patient learn to interpret these electrical pulses, thereby offering them some degree of sight. Second Sight Medical products are working on trials to improve the product, increasing the granularity that patients can perceive and functionality to allow patients to zoom in on objects.
TMAO Testing: More effective screening for heart attacks and strokes.
New and improved blood tests focusing on TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide), a common compound derived from natural occurring bacteria in a person’s gut, have been shown to be an incredibly powerful predictor of heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Stanley Hazen explains how the test works; “the higher someone’s level of TMAO is, the more susceptible that person is to accumulation of cholesterol in the artery wall. This increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.” Individuals with the highest levels of TMAO in their body were over 2.5 times more likely to suffer a major cardiac event (i.e. a heart attack or stroke).
Not only does this test give healthcare professionals an early warning of a patient’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke; but they also now have a greater understanding of the role of TMAO. With this information, clinicians can work with their patients to modify their diet to reduce their risk without medical intervention.
Electronic stethoscopes are becoming a key diagnostic tool.
Electronic stethoscopes have revolutionized in the ways in which medical professionals share medical data with one another and diagnose patients. Innovative companies are introducing technologies and features more usually associated with high-end smartphones to this essential medical device. In fact, electronic stethoscopes aren’t a future technology; there’s already a few models of electronic stethoscopes very popular within cardiologist and internist.
These rapidly developing stethoscopes allow doctors to link their device to sound and visual projectors. This allows multiple medical experts to review the same patient data simultaneously. Clinicians do not even need to be in the same room as the patient and their colleagues; conferencing platforms allow experts across the world to see and analyze data at the same time.
This is the real benefit of electronic stethoscopes; being able to digitally transmit patient data supports a move in the medical profession towards more efficient and remote diagnoses and treatments. Being able to assess patients remotely reduces the cost and stress involved in traveling to medical centers, and will bring together doctors with patients in developing communities.
Tellspec food scanner.
Moving away from devices for medical professionals, the Tellspec is a handy little food scanning tool that has the potential to make you healthier. By providing you with detail information about what nutritional qualities (if any…) your fast food, haute cuisine or midnight snack contains, you will be able to make more informed decisions about what, and how much, you eat.
The device could also be useful for people with allergies. Often, people with allergies are nervous about eating out; even if they tell the restaurant and are assured that their food doesn’t contain nuts, wheat or whatever else they may be allergic to, sometimes dangerous rogue ingredients can slip into food. The Tellspec can scan and identify ingredients, significantly reducing this risk and giving the diner real peace of mind.
The first new Antibiotic in nearly 30 years
Perhaps the most impactive breakthrough this year is the introduction of the first new antibiotic drugs in almost three decades. The growing resistance of many common bacteria to antibiotics is a serious global health challenge. The new drug, Teixobactin, has been shown to be highly effective in conditions where traditional antibiotics no longer work.
Teixobactin also provides hope that more (and more effective) antibiotics can be found to replace those that have been superseded by bacterial resistance. Animal trials with the drug have been highly encouraging, and scientists believe that they will be able to begin clinical trials on human patients within two years.