Health Tech News This Week – May 7, 2022

What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.

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Future wearable health tech could measure gases released from skin

Scientists have taken the first step to create the next generation of wearable health monitors. Tatyana Woodall reports on this research in Ohio State News online. A new study suggests that a wearable sensor may monitor the body’s health by detecting the gases released from a person’s skin. This team’s method would allow the technology to sense biomarkers related to metabolic disorders, like heart disease or diabetes.

Why it’s important – Discerning health issues through the skin is the ultimate frontier. This research is still in the early stages, but in six months, they should have proof of concept, and in a year, they’d like to have it tested on people.

Infographic of the week – From an article in Science by Jocelyn Kaiser, this terrific infographic shows how preventative cancer vaccines will work.

Image Credit: V. Altounian, Science

Walmart Health Introduces Telehealth Diabetes Program To Help Businesses Support Employees Through Education and Behavioral Care

To better provide for patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and assist employers and other institutions in supporting the specific health needs of their employees, national telehealth provider MeMD, part of the Walmart Health family, today launched the Walmart Health Virtual Care Diabetes Program. The announcement was made in a press release from the company. Available as a standalone or as part of a comprehensive medical and behavioral telehealth program, the Walmart Health Virtual Care Diabetes Program was developed for employers and payors to help their employees and members close gaps in diabetes management among employees and their families through early intervention, which could lead to better health outcomes. Robert Gabbay, M.D., chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association, said the partnership with Walmart Health helps to increase education and access to clinical care to more effectively manage diabetes.

“Our aim is to empower patients with the most up-to-date diabetes education and clinical care so they can take control of their health. Our program focuses on a patient’s physical and mental health, which also helps employers maintain healthier workforces and drive down overall healthcare costs.”

John Wigneswaran, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Walmart

Why it’s important – More than 37 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and its prevalence is expected to grow 54% by 2030. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), fewer than 20% of people with diabetes in the United States meet recommended treatment management goals, costing employers more than $20 billion per year. And Walmart’s reach into communities where access to health care can be problematic helps ensure that underserved populations get access to this critical program.

Researchers Using AI and Apple Watch ECGs to Detect Weak Heart Pump

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have created an artificial intelligence algorithm that can use single-lead ECGs taken by the Apple Watch to find patients who have a weak heart pump, according to research data shared this week at the Heart Rhythm Society conference. Juli Clover reported on the research in her Mac Rumors article. The study included 125,610 ECGs collected for six months from 46 states and 11 countries. Each person submitted many ECGs, and the cleanest readings were used for the algorithm. Several hundred of the participants had clinical testing to measure pump strength, and that data was used to determine whether the Apple Watch could detect an issue.

YouTube video credit: Mayo Clinic

Why it’s important – A weak heart pump, or left ventricular dysfunction, is an issue that affects two to three percent of people around the world and up to nine percent of people over age 60. Like atrial fibrillation, another heart issue the Apple Watch can detect, a weak heart pump can have no symptoms. It can also be accompanied by symptoms that include racing heartbeats or shortness of breath. Researchers plan to launch global prospective studies to do further testing in more diverse populations to demonstrate the benefit of the single-lead ECG feature in the Apple Watch.

University of Sydney researchers create sensor bracelet for hand-impaired persons

From Adam Ang in MobiHealthNews, researchers from the University of Sydney’s School of Computer Science have developed a 3D-printed sensor bracelet to enable people with hand impairment to use computers and play video games. The bracelet works by picking up subtle movements in a user’s wrist when they move their fingers. From the sensors, these movements are transmitted via Bluetooth to a computer program which then interprets, classifies, and adapts them using machine learning.

Image Credit: University of Sydney

Why it’s important – Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. About 50% of people living with this condition find speech difficult or impossible, while two-thirds have trouble moving one or both arms. The researchers also want their computer program translated into a free mobile app version.

FDA clears wearable 3D breast ultrasound for cancer screening

A company called iSono Health, which aims to make personalized whole-breast imaging accessible to all women worldwide, has received FDA clearance for its automated, wearable, 3D breast ultrasound, the company announced Tuesday. Michael Schroeder reported on the announcement in MedCity News. In just two minutes, the portable system automatically scans the entire breast, independent of operator expertise, and offers 3D visualization of the breast tissue, according to the company. The technology is integrated with machine learning models that provide clinical decision-making support.

Image Credit: iSono Health

Why it’s important – “A portable and automated whole breast ultrasound augmented with machine learning would be the most practical technology to reduce breast cancer mortality globally, specifically in countries with limited resources,” said Dr. Mohammad Eghtedari, a breast radiologist and an assistant professor at University of California San Diego. The technology would also provide another breast cancer screening option for younger women who are not eligible for mammograms or women who otherwise lack access to mammograms.

How patient-on-a-chip tech could be the future of drug discovery

Testing drug compounds on a chip designed to mimic human organs sounds closer to science fiction than reality, yet the technology already exists and is already being put to use. Ben Hargreaves in PharmaPhorum online writes about how the technology could provide more accurate safety predictions and even discover new treatments. The advance in technology has allowed organ-on-a-chip technology, which uses microfluidics to mimic the physiology and functionality of human organs on a chip. This technology could more accurately reflect drug development in the human body by incorporating multiple cell types and introducing microfluidic channels that can provide a controlled nutrient fluid flow or concentration of the drug that the organ is exposed to. A patient-on-a-chip comprises a collection of several different miniaturized, three-dimensional organ-on-a-chip (such as liver, brain, etc.) interconnected by a blood-like circulation.

Why it’s importantAs I highlighted in a previous post, the advantage provided by these connected organs-on-a-chip is in being able to detect better the toxicity of drugs that could be missed by mice studies and generally provide an overall more accurate response to a drug’s pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in the human body. There’s still work to be done to prove the efficacy of the chip approach. But the research looks promising and is moving rapidly. So I would expect that we will see broader technology adoption in drug development soon.

Matricelf Moves Closer to Curing Paralysis with In-house 3D Printable Human Stem Cells

Israeli regenerative medicine firm Matricelf has reached a new milestone in developing its 3D printed neural implants for paralyzed patients with spinal cord injuries. Hayley Everett reported on the developments in her article on 3D Printing Industry. The firm has successfully produced its own in-house induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from human peripheral blood cells, which will be combined with a unique hydrogel to form 3D printed implants which could potentially cure paralysis. Founded in 2019, Matricelf leverages a patent-pending 3D bioprinting technology that has been under development at Tel Aviv University (TAU) for the last decade in the lab of Professor Tal Dvir, one of the founders of the Matricelf and the firm’s Chief Scientific Officer.

Image Credit: The stages of Matricelf’s 3D bioprinted spinal cord process. Image via Matricelf.

Why it’s important – By combining their self-developed iPSCs with a unique thermo-responsive hydrogel, Matricelf will produce 3D printed neural implants that could enable patients with spinal cord injuries to walk again. The 3D printed implants allow the regeneration of damaged tissues within and around the spinal cord using a cellular and ECM component originating from individual patients. The firm is currently gearing up to enter into human trials with its 3D printed spinal cord implants in 2024, which they believe could provide a potential cure for paralysis within just a few years.

Curebase thinks the future of clinical testing is decentralized and raises $40M to prove it

Curebase provides the infrastructure — physical and digital — for distributed clinical trials and will be doubling down on its success with a new $40 million funding round. Devin Coldewey reported on the new funding in his TechCrunch article. Curebase combines an app-based experience for the patients with a supervised and standardized process on the provider side to ensure that the data is as good in a decentralized study as it would be in one conducted at a single location.

“We put trained principal investigators in charge of each study. We see every site, who performs what, there’s incredible data transparency.”

Tom Lemberg, Founder and CEO, Curebase

Why it’s important – As I’ve written before, clearly there’s value here, as the company has seen significant growth (it’s done 50 studies so far, with the yearly number tripling or more each year it has existed) and now attracted significant strategic funding from pharmaceutical company Gilead. The funding will enable further expansion in a general sense for Curebase, activating partnerships at more institutions and hiring the people necessary to oversee the trials that will use them.

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