What happened in health care technology this week – and why it’s important.
Alimetry: The Auckland startup that wants to digitize your gut
Patients suffering from gastric dysfunction may soon have an alternative to invasive endoscopies and diagnostic procedures, thanks to a wireless medical device designed by Alimetry, an Auckland-based startup. An article in The Bit this week reported on developments in creating a wearable device that can monitor signals coming from the stomach.
Worn over the stomach, the device consists of a stretchable array containing 64 electrodes. Much like the way an ECG records the electronic signal of the heart, Alimetry’s device, known as Gastric Alimetry, can measure the comparatively weaker signals coming from the stomach and produce accurate reports clinicians can use to treat patients. The patient wears the device after eating a meal and keeps it on for about four hours. It reads the stomach patterns and wirelessly sends the data to a hand-held device the size of an iPad mini and then to a cloud-based server. The server then uses algorithms to produce a detailed report for the clinician.
“More than 10% of the population carries around with them some kind of gastric symptoms. So these problems are so big and important that this is just the beginning of what will be a whole new market category, I think.”Greg O’Grady, Alimetry co-founder and CEO
Why it’s important – While early in the market release phase, the type of sensor technology developed here expands the number of conditions that can be monitored remotely. Also, imaging people with an X-ray, or physically examining their abdomen, or using an endoscope don’t answer questions of function; they answer questions of structure. The company also believes that it can expand the clinical applications to include the colon in the future.
Israeli Company’s ‘Spiderman’ Technology Spins New Artificial Skin for Patients
An article in The Algemeiner by Yafit Ovadia reports on new developments in artificial skin for wound treatment. Nanomedic Technologies has engineered an artificial skin that is 3D-printed, is affixed directly onto a patient’s skin, and after 24-48 hours allows patients to use that area as they usually would.
The company has developed a handheld device for wound care that prints a nanofiber matrix directly onto a patient’s wound via 3D printing, and treats three specific areas, primarily burns, trauma, and wound care. The bandages are also airtight, which is a bonus when the potential for infection arises.
“It prevents bacteria from getting into a wound, but our technology also allows patients to live life normally. If you burn your hand, then healthcare professionals heavily-bandage that area. Your hand could be out of use for a month or longer, until it heals. However, with our technology, we ‘spray’ on the bandage, and you could go back to using that limb within 24-48 hours.”Gary Sagiv, VP of Marketing & Sales
Its product is currently approved in Europe, is awaiting FDA approval, and is now expanding into the Asian market.
Why it’s important – The ability to 3D print the “bandage” directly onto the patient’s wound, along with the ability to return to regular use within 24-48 hours, is currently unique in the market. The technology can be used in a wide variety of applications. The artificial bandage can treat any type of burn wounds, whether they were from chemical or electrical fires, as well as patients suffering from skiing or motorcycle accidents or to any kind of physical skin abrasion.
YouTube partners with Mass General on health content amid misinformation backlash
Fierce Healthcare reported on a new partnership between YouTube and Mass General Brigham to point up medical information from authoritative health sources, such as the health system’s physicians, researchers, and health care experts. The Google-owned company said it would highlight videos from high-quality sources when people search for specific health topics. YouTube will also add new “health source information panels” on videos to help viewers identify those they can trust.
YouTube aims to provide health information that is accessible, engaging, and understandable—and perhaps more likely to spur people to act. The company plans to highlight videos from health sources recommended by the National Academy of Medicine. The company has already partnered with leading healthcare providers, including Cleveland Clinic, Mass General Brigham, Mayo Clinic, Stanford Medicine, and Kaiser Family Foundation.
Why it’s important – Let’s face it, the first thing many people do when they have a health question is head online, but when it comes to COVID-19 and vaccines, the answers they’re finding might do more harm than good. And, in an increasingly digital world, the next phase in health communication is video, where health care professionals can connect with patients and answer their questions in a way that is both visual and personal.
Putting the power of AlphaFold into the world’s hands
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced this week that their DeepMind division, in partnership with EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), released (as an open-source product) the latest iteration of AlphaFold2, which was heralded at its initial release as a solution to the 50-year old protein folding problem.
“With this resource freely and openly available, the scientific community will be able to draw on collective knowledge to accelerate discovery, ushering in a new era for AI-enabled biology,”Paul Nurse, 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine and director of the Francis Crick Institute
In addition to the human proteome (all the ~20,000 proteins expressed by the human genome), they’re providing open access to the proteomes of 20 other biologically significant organisms, totaling over 350,000 protein structures. Research into these organisms has been the subject of countless research papers and numerous breakthroughs and has resulted in a deeper understanding of life itself. In the coming months, they plan to vastly expand the coverage to almost every sequenced protein known to science – over 100 million structures covering most of the UniProt reference database. It’s a veritable protein almanac of the world. And the system and database will periodically be updated as they continue to invest in future improvements to AlphaFold.
“This will be one of the most important datasets since the mapping of the Human Genome.”EWAN BIRNEY, EMBL DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL AND EMBL-EBI DIRECTOR
Why it’s important – In the hands of scientists worldwide, the hope is that this new protein almanac will enable and accelerate research that will advance our understanding of these building blocks of life. The potential applications are enormous, from researching genetic diseases and combating anti-microbial resistance to engineering more drought-resistant crops. By making this data set open-source, AlphaFold opens new research horizons, and it allows powerful, cutting-edge AI enabling work on diseases that are concentrated almost exclusively in impoverished populations.
Israel to become first in world to test oral COVID-19 vaccine
An article in The Jerusalem Post this week reported on the progress being made in developing an oral COVID-19 vaccine. Oramed Pharmaceuticals, through its subsidiary Oravax Medical, is gearing up to commence clinical trials of its vaccine at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv after receiving approval for its study protocol from the hospital’s Institutional Review Board. It is now waiting for approval from the Health Ministry, which is expected within a few weeks.
Oramed’s technology can be used to orally administer several protein-based therapies, which would otherwise be delivered by injection. Oramed is in the midst of a Phase III clinical trial through the US Food and Drug Administration of an oral insulin capsule for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The new Oravax vaccine candidate targets three structural proteins of the novel coronavirus, as opposed to the single spike protein targeted by the current Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The vaccine is being tested in preclinical studies against COVID-19 variants, including the Delta one.
Why it’s important – if the clinical trials are successful, this vaccine should be much more resistant to COVID-19 variants. Even if the virus gets through one line, there is a second line, and if through the second line, there is a third. An oral COVID-19 vaccine would eliminate several barriers to rapid, wide-scale distribution, potentially enabling people to take the vaccine themselves at home. The vaccine can be shipped at refrigerator temperatures and even stored at room temperature, making it logistically easier to get it anywhere worldwide. The initial approvals would be sought in countries that have had limited access to current vaccines.
Omniscient Neurotechnology gets US FDA clearance for brain mapping software
Adam Ang reported In MobiHealthNews that Sydney-based Omniscient Neurotechnology had received the US FDA’s 510(k) clearance for its brain mapping software. Quicktome is a digital brain mapping platform that provides clinicians with a visualization of a patient’s brain networks which are responsible for complex functions such as language, movement, and cognition. The platform analyses millions of data points from a patient’s MRI and delivers insights to neurosurgeons before and during brain surgery.
“Quicktome breaks information down into actionable insights to inform the impact each incision will have on the patient.”Stephen Scheeler, CEO, Omniscient Neurotechnology
Why it’s important – The platform is designed by neurosurgeons and data scientists to assist clinicians in making informed decisions; it also reduces uncertainty by providing insights on a patient before and during life-changing brain surgery. The company says its solution can derive insights from various brain-related disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, chronic pain, and brain cancer. Moreover, the platform enables multidisciplinary collaboration in hospitals.