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Medical Marvels in 2014

2014 Medical round up


Fecal Microbiota Transplant
By using the healthy bacteria from a normal stool sample a weakened or diseased intestine is re-seeded to fight off infections naturally. Don't say 'yuck'. The results have been remarkable in both adults and children. It has been a boon and a miraculous cure for patients who have had multiple rounds of C. diff (Clostridium difficile bacteria). C.diff causes infection and life-threatening diarrhea that normally is treated with antibiotics, which often fails to treat the infection as well as can make it worse by destroying some of the normal helpful bacteria in the intestine, allowing even more C. diff bacteria to thrive. Recently, an aggressive new strain of C. diff has emerged that produces more toxins and found more resistant to medication. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says in the U.S., C. diff causes 250,000 infections requiring hospitalization and 14,000 deaths each year. In this scenario has emerged this new treatment option called 'fecal transplant'. So far, the tedious procedure of colonoscopy or nasogastric tube was used for the fecal transplant, but now researchers are working on newer and less costlier methods like using frozen stool in a capsule form to be swallowed with water. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators report that oral administration of the therapy called fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in acid-resistant capsules is as effective as the invasive procedures.

Bionic Eye-a reality
People affected with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), an inherited degenerative eye disease, ultimately become legally blind by 40 years of age. Their delicate photoreceptors are damaged over years and there was no remedy for this so far. Now the retinal prosthesis technology or the bionic eye has changed everything. The new technology replaces the degenerated cells in the retina and helps patients perceive patterns of light in the brain. One can interpret these patterns of light and thus regain some visual function though not complete vision. Differentiating light and dark as well as identification of location or movement of objects or people is possible. So, people with the prosthesis are now able to better perform their daily activities. They can now walk on a sidewalk properly and even see large letters, words or sentences. They can even pick up matching socks of white, grey or black colors.

Heart Transplant from a Cadaver
All body transplants are done from live donors or alive organs. Can you believe that this October, an Australian team of scientists have revived hearts, 20 minutes after they stopped beating and successfully transplanted in awaiting patients. About 20 minutes after the hearts had stopped beating, doctors put them inside a box-like machine, which supplied the vital organ with oxygen. Then they were removed and injected with a preservation solution to keep them fresh. This was done by perfusion-based machine named OCS-HEART. So, the oxygen supply and preservative acted together in making the stopped heart transplantable.

Sedation Station
Colonoscopies are the chief means of cancer deduction as well as a major routine screening procedure, which accounts for added cost to the healthcare system. A light sedation is usually provided by the anesthesiologist to enable the patients to relax during the procedure. But, did you know that cutting the anesthesia service would mean cost cutting of atleast $1 billion per year in U.S. alone? This is where the 'sedation station' comes into play. This novel technology allows the healthcare professionals themselves to deliver the prescription sedative propofol. This has already got the premarket approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2013.

Target Therapy for CLL
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), is a cancer responsible for the death of 4,400 Americans per year. Oral drug ibrutinab has promising clinical trial results and it is expected to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of CLL. This drug targets the malignant cells and spares the body's immune system.

High-Speed DNA testing for Infectious Diseases
The normal diagnosis for infectious disease is by testing for a single infectious agent at a time. But, researchers have now developed a new technology called "Next Generation Sequencing" that works by detecting all the DNA present in clinical samples. Instead of guessing what a patient might have, and ordering one test after another, this new technology starts with a sample of blood or spinal fluid from an infected person and searches through all the DNA in it, looking for sequences that came from a virus, a bacterium, a fungus or even a parasite. So, in short, DNA from the patient's sample is compared to that available in the DNA library. Thus, within 48 hours, the culprit can be identified and the patient can be started on the appropriate treatment.

Clothes to Monitor and Transmit Biomedical info
The scientific journal 'Sensors' calls this a technological breakthrough by which elderly people or people suffering from chronic diseases living alone, firemen, police officers are benefited. A team under the supervision of Professor Younes Messaddeq created the "smart fabric" by successfully superimposing multiple layers of copper, polymers, glass and silver. This fiber can act as both sensor and antenna. It is malleable and durable, can be woven with wool or cotton. The signal quality from this fabric is comparable to commercial antennas. It seems the surface of the fibre can also monitor a range of information like brain activity, glucose levels, heart rhythm, movements and spatial coordinates. It features a thick polymer overcoat. It can withstand high tensile and bending stresses, mechanical abrasion, extreme heat conditions (up to 350°C), humidity, water, detergent or acidic environments. A patent application has already been filed, but commercialization may require more fine-tuning. This technology needs to be connected to a wireless network. Also, power supply should not become an issue. Anyway, results are expected to be promising.

Custom Cardiology-a Virtual Heart for every individual
Using computer models it is possible to simulate an individual patient heart. This is going to revolutionize medical treatment as each heart can be modeled to great accuracy to reveal its exclusiveness. Biomedical engineers have been working on 'virtual organs' for more than a decade now and the virtual heart is the most complete model of all. Starting with the patient’s MRI or CT scans, specialists in computational cardiology can create a personalized model for each patient’s heart to study his or her unique ailment. Doctors can now poke and prod the computerized organ in ways that simply is impossible with a live flesh-blood heart. With these models at their disposal, cardiologists can now effectively improve therapies, minimize the invasiveness of diagnostic procedures, and reduce risks and health-care costs. So, not far is the day when infants to adults will have their virtual hearts tucked in their electronic medical records.

Wound Sealing in just 15 seconds
In Military, when bullets or shrapnel strike a soldier, the standard first aid imparted is stuffing gauze as deep as 5 inches into the wound and applying pressure and change the gauze if It bleeds for more than 3 minutes. Normally, the blood loss from wounds accounts for the majority of deaths in combats. To reduce this, a group of veterans, scientists, and engineers known as RevMedx has created a pocket-sized device called XStat that looks like a syringe.This is faster and more effective in plugging wounds. The polycarbonate syringe slides deep into a wound, such as a bullet track. When the handle is pushed down, it deposits dozens of pill-size sponges that expand to arrest bleeding. Also, a substance in the sponges fights infection while clotting blood. The team is currently seeking FDA approval for XStat, which would make this device a part of Military life-saving arsenal. But, that is not going to be the only place of use. Ambulances and other emergency responders are interested to carry this device as well.

Wireless Pacemaker
Unlike traditional pacemakers, the new device that is slightly larger than a vitamin pill is completely self-contained and requires no wires to connect it to the heart muscle. This can be implanted through a catheter, without the need for a chest incision. After 18 months, this has been successfully working on the first set of patients who received the wireless pacemaker.

Watch the Video: Wireless Pacemaker

All great deeds and great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning!



"All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door."

- Albert Camus

Disclaimer: The above content is provided for information and awareness purpose only. It is not prescriptive or suggestive or meant to replaces your qualified physician's advice or consultation.