Health Tech News This Week – June 11, 2022

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

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A world first: Human liver was treated in a machine and then successfully transplanted

The Liver4Life research has developed a perfusion machine that makes it possible to implant a human organ into a patient after a storage period of three days outside a body. The device mimics the human body as accurately as possible to provide ideal conditions for human livers. A pump serves as a replacement heart, an oxygenator replaces the lungs, and a dialysis unit performs the functions of the kidneys. In addition, numerous hormone and nutrient infusions perform the functions of the intestine and pancreas. The article on the first transplantation of a liver prepared in a perfusion machine was published in Nature Biotechnology on May 31, 2022.

Image Credit: University Hospital Zurich (USZ), ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich (UZH)

Why it’s important – The therapy demonstrates that by treating livers in the perfusion machine, it is possible to alleviate the lack of functioning human organs and save lives. The next step in the Liver4Life project is to review the procedure on other patients and demonstrate its efficacy and safety in the form of a multicenter study. Its success would mean that in the future, liver transplantation, which usually constitutes an emergency procedure, would be transformed into a plannable elective procedure.

Infographic of the week – From the team at Gist Healthcare, a terrific graphic demonstrates how different organizations approach platform development in health care. If you are not following the work Chas Roades and Lisa Bielamowicz, M.D. do at Gist Healthcare; you should bookmark their website and sign up for their posts.

Image Credit: Gist Healthcare

Gel that repairs heart attack damage could improve health of millions

Andrew Gregory in The Guardian reports that British researchers have developed a biodegradable gel to repair damage caused by a heart attack in a breakthrough that could improve the health of millions of survivors worldwide. Researchers at the University of Manchester have created a gel that can be injected directly into the beating heart – effectively working as a scaffold to help injected cells grow new tissue.

“We’re confident that this gel will be an effective option for future cell-based therapies to help the damaged heart to regenerate.”

Katharine King, University of Manchester

Why it’s important – Until now, when cells have been injected into the heart to reduce the risk of heart failure, only 1% have stayed in place and survived. But the gel can hold them in place as they graft onto the heart.

The graveyard of health tech pilots: why some experiments flourish and others fizzle

Pilot programs are health tech’s proving ground: they let health systems test-drive new devices and software without spending millions of dollars or shaking up patient care too quickly. They’re also where some of tech’s biggest ideas have gone to die. STAT+ reporter Mohana Ravindranath interviewed several health care executives for this article. (Subscription required) STAT asked executives at large hospital systems about their failed pilots and why they fell apart.

“What I want to see is proof that people were willing to go to bat internally at a health system, and whether you made it past phase 1 or phase 2. What it shows me is that you were able to cultivate a champion at the health system who was willing to put their reputation on the line.”

Tom Cassels, President of venture fund Rock Health

Why it’s important – Knowing that health systems and tech companies have stress-tested and tweaked the product after previous failures could boost investor confidence. And health systems that have demonstrated a willingness to run pilots — successful or not — might attract other tech companies pitching their solutions.

Virtual Reality to Train Staff to Deal with Agitated Patients

Conn Hastings from Medgadget reports that Researchers at the National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, have developed a virtual reality training system that lets healthcare staff learn how to deal with agitated or aggressive patients. This new system aims to mimic common scenarios for trainee nurses and doctors and allows them to make mistakes without causing harm or creating a risk. The system is quite sophisticated and mimics common distractors found in busy healthcare wards to make the experience as realistic as possible.

YouTube Video Credit: National University, Singapore

Why it’s important – Managing a situation with an agitated patient inappropriately could pose risks for patients and staff alike, and physical and verbal attacks on healthcare staff are unfortunately relatively common. Virtual reality represents an ideal way for trainee staff to learn to handle such situations without any real-world consequences.

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