LTU app prevents falls

A simple electronic mobile device will be able to alert a caregiver when an elderly person makes movements that indicate he or she is about to get up from a wheelchair. Known as “Sparrow,” this Android device was developed by an team of physicians, scientists and professors to provide caregivers the information they need to return in time to prevent an elderly occupant from leaving a wheelchair unnoticed and unassisted. 

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michigan attracts venture capitalists

The last two years were record-breakers for venture capital investing in Michigan-based life sciences companies, according to BioEnterprise Corp., a Cleveland-based initiative that tracks investments in healthcare and life sciences firms across the Midwest. Sixteen Michigan companies received $131.73 million in investments in 2015, including: 

•     Armune BioScience Inc. of Kalamazoo, commercializing a new-generation blood test to diagnose prostate cancer, received $3.54 million in Series A financing in January 2015.

•     Delphinus Technologies Inc. of Plymouth, developer of a 3D imaging device to screen for breast cancer, received a $39.5 million investment in September.

•     Michigan Critical Care Consultants Inc. of Dexter, developer and manufacturer of cardiopulmonary medical devices, received a $34 million investment in November.

•     Tetra Discovery Partners LLC of Grand Rapids, developer of a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease that will go to clinical trials this year, received a $1.0 million investment in September

helmet tech reduces severity of head injuries

With ongoing research about the relationships between football and concussion, head injuries and long-term brain disease, researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor are developing a shock-absorbing football helmet that can effectively dissipate the energy from a hit to the head.

“We now understand that sports helmets need to protect both the skull and the brain from the harmful effects of an impact,” says Ellen Arruda, professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering at U-M. “Skull fracture is prevented by minimizing the amplitude of the force transmitted through the helmet, and to a certain extent, this also helps protect the brain from injury. In order to better protect the brain, the energy carried by the impact needs to be dissipated.”

Arruda notes that there are several strategies for dissipating energy. One strategy is fracture, which includes cracking and breaking. The creation of cracked surfaces dissipates energy, but this process can’t be used repeatedly. It is a useful strategy for a bicycle helmet; if it cracks and breaks as a result of an impact, it is replaced.  

“The strategy we have developed is intended to be used to dissipate energy in impact after impact after impact, Arruda says. “Not only can it better protect the brain in football impacts, it can be an effective strategy in bicycle accidents even if the helmet doesn’t crack and break.”

The helmet system, known as Mitigatium, is made of three materials. The first layer is much like the hard polycarbonate that present-day helmets are made of, and the second layer is another type of plastic. Together, these two layers reflect most of the initial shock wave from a collision. The third layer, known as the “visco-elastic” layer, then dissipates the remaining shock via vibrations.  

Sponsors of the Mitigatium system include General Electric,  the National Football League, National Institute of Standards and Technology and national sports clothing company Under Armour.  

maintaining healthy blood vessels

Keeping blood vessels healthy during and after surgery is often difficult, but a Northwestern University research team has found a potential way to ensure this through the use of nitric oxide.

Patients who undergo vascular procedures are at risk of blood vessel damage, which can lead to cellular overgrowth resulting in restricted blood flow. These complications potentially can be prevented by the use of nitric oxide. A research team led by Guillermo Ameer, Sc.D., professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Surgery in Evanston, IL, has changed the traditional drug protamine sulfate into a nitric oxide-releasing drug by exposing it to highly pressurized nitric oxide gas.

While other nitric oxide-releasing drugs currently exist, most become toxic after the gas is expelled. Ameer’s team was able to convert protamine into a nitric oxide donor without changing its natural structure. Because protamine naturally occurs in the body, it did not leave behind toxic byproducts.

beaumont hospital research

Researchers at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI, are focused on innovative, less invasive treatment methods for those sustaining injuries on the battlefield as well as at home.

Post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) is considered the number one cause of disability for the U.S. military. But many combat-related injuries do not receive proper medical treatment. Stem cells could help these injuries heal. However, on the battlefield, setting up a stem cell transplantation program is nearly impossible.

Kevin Baker, Ph.D., director of Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak orthopedic research laboratories, has been awarded a $260,000 Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program grant to study post-traumatic osteoarthritis.  The grant will fund pre-clinical research to develop a stem cell-based therapy that could delay or eliminate the onset of cartilage degeneration following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear or sprain, a common knee injury. Current methods of using stem cells are expensive and labor-intensive for this kind of treatment.

Beaumont researchers are developing a method to allow doctors to use a patient’s own stem cells without ever processing them outside of the body. This kind of treatment could help military personnel, and other members of the community, receive the help they need quicker.

Baker is also part of a research team working on a plastic derived from cornstarch combined with montmorillonite clay, which is found in volcanic ash. Indigenous cultures and healers have used montmorillonite clay for centuries as an internal and external healing agent. This plastic is intended to help heal the bones of patients with orthopedic injuries who need bone replacement.
Traditional bone graft procedures require surgeons to remove bone from another part of the patient’s body to heal the affected area and encourage new bone growth. Harvesting a patient’s bone can result in complications at the harvest site.

Eliminating the need to harvest bone and performing only one surgery using the synthetic material would help reduce related complications.

Unlike current procedures, which often require a metal or plastic implant for added strength, the synthetic material doesn’t require additional hardware placed in the patient’s body.

According to Baker, this improves outcomes for the patient because internal hardware can result in infection and can complicate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) imaging tests.


life-saving alternative to open-heart surgery

As many as 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with severe aortic stenosis, a condition in which the aortic valve does not open fully, decreasing blood flow from the heart to the body. Aortic stenosis may be related to age, a buildup of calcium deposits that causes narrowing, radiation therapy, medications or a history of high cholesterol. Although open-heart surgery is the treatment of choice for aortic stenosis, approximately one-third of patients with this disease are not candidates for the surgery, but they may benefit from minimally invasive heart valve replacement options, such as the Sapien transcatheter aortic valve.

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a new take on wearable devices

The next generation of wearable health tech is all about collecting personal information — a patient’s heart rhythm, for example — and sending it directly to a healthcare professional (in this case via a remote stethoscope). According to ABI Research, a technology market intelligence company, annual wearable wireless medical device sales will reach more than 100 million devices by 2016.

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move over aspirin …

Those who suffer debilitating migraines, cluster headaches or other chronic facial pain may soon have a new method of relief, thanks to Autonomic Technologies, Inc., a medical device company in Redwood City, CA. The company has created a patient-powered tool, currently under clinical investigation, designed to block signals from the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a facial nerve bundle located on either side of the nose. Researchers believe the SPG is associated with severe headaches.

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making medical procedures safer, more efficient

Ann Arbor, MI-based Biotectix has developed a conductive coating for medical devices to maximize efficiency and safety during cardiac or nervous system procedures.

According to Biotectix co-founder Sarah Richardson-Burns, Amplicoat, the electro-conductive coating, provides greater tissue-sensing resolution and more localized stimulation control for better communication between human tissue and a medical device’s electrode. The technology allows surgeons to perform less invasive examinations and procedures.

The coating can be applied to a variety of metal electrodes, providing a solution for numerous medical-device applications, including neurostimulation, cardiac pacing, electrophysiology recordings, cochlear implants and gastrointestinal recording and stimulation. The technology may also enable the development of smaller implantable medical devices in the future.

Richardson-Burns says Amplicoat is a “true breakthrough technology.” The company is working with medical manufactures to incorporate Amplicoat into their devices, with non-medical applications for the coating under development.

genomics is changing the face of medicine

“Genomic medicine,” also known as personalized or targeted medicine, is bringing change to the future of medicine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), genomic medicine is the study of all the genes in the human genome, which is a double-stranded DNA helix that defines what each individual is made of.

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