Category: Health

How Videogames Could Help Train the Next Generation of Robotic Surgeons


Dr. Sami Kilic oversees doctors training to become surgeons at a hospital in Galveston, Texas, and he’s also the parent of a teenage boy. Like many parents, Kilic is concerned about how much time his son spends playing videogames. But now he’s also worried that his resident physicians aren’t playing them enough.

According to a study by Kilic and others at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, doling out death in the virtual world of first-person-shooter games might help the next generation of surgeons save lives in the real world. The study, presented at a meeting of the American Gynecologic Laparoscopists in Las Vegas in November, used simulators to compare the robotic surgery skills of med school residents against college and high school students who spend a lot of their time playing videogames — and the videogamers won.

Robotic surgery — where robotic machinery helps surgeons perform certain tasks through very small incisions — is growing rapidly, despite the criticism that these procedures are expensive and may not be any more safe than traditional minimally invasive operations. In recent years, around 75 percent of all prostate cancer surgeries are now done with Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Surgical Systems machines, according to the company (.pdf).

Intuitive Surgical – which currently enjoys a monopoly on robotic surgery equipment — also reports (.pdf) that there was a 29 percent increase in robotic-assisted surgeries from 2010 to 2010, and the number climbed another 24 percent from 2011 to 2012. For better or worse, the next generation of surgeons will likely need to learn to operate robotic equipment.

Read the complete article at Wired.

Doctors implant first ‘brain pacemaker’ to treat Alzheimer’s

For heart patients, signing up to implant a pacemaker in your chest isn’t casual choice. Nevertheless, the technology has saved numerous lives over the years. This week a new development was unveiled that uses a similar device to treat to Alzheimer’s patients with what’s essentially a pacemaker for the brain.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have announced the first successful implantation of a pacemaker-like device that delivers deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a means for reversing cognitive degeneration and memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s. The treatment is more commonly used on patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Read the complete article at DVice.

Cloud experts say healthcare is the ‘perfect storm’

For cloud technology companies that are brave enough to tackle the healthcare industry, it’s a perfect storm — there are major challenges and opportunities.

At CloudBeat, the conference focused on how real customers are transitioning to the cloud, healthcare technology experts gathered to discuss moving from paper-based to electronic systems.

For IT leads at hospitals and health providers, now is the time for action. “There is market pressure, pressure from physicians and audience groups,” said Scott Whyte, Vice President of IT Connectivity at Dignity Health, the fifth largest hospital provider in the nation.

By 2014, Obamacare mandates that hospitals and practitioners who have been maintaining paper records to switch to electronic medical records.

It will not be a simple transition. “The healthcare industry is fragmented, complex and paper-based,” said Darin Brannan, president and CEO of ClearDATA, a secure provider of e-mail and cloud computing technologies that take the risk out of mail and app hosting.

The key hurdles for companies like ClearDATA include security and breaches, compliance and regulatory issues, and the existing legacy infrastructure systems.

Read more at Venture Beat.

Bionic Prosthetic Arm

Artificial lens mimics the human eye

Researchers have created a new artificial lens, made up of thousands of nanoscale polymer layers, that’s almost identical to the lens in a human eye.

As well as the obvious medical applications, it could be used in consumer vision products and even ground and aerial surveillance technology.

The lens is based on a new technology called GRIN, or gradient refractive index optics. In GRIN, light gets bent, or refracted, by varying degrees as it passes through a lens or other transparent material – unlike traditional lenses, which bend light using their surface shape or single index of refraction.

Read the complete article at TG Daily.

Molecular 3D bioprinting could mean getting drugs through email

What happens when you combine advances in 3D printing with biosynthesis and molecular construction? Eventually, it might just lead to printers that can manufacture vaccines and other drugs from scratch: email your doc, download some medicine, print it out and you’re cured.

This concept (which is surely being worked on as we speak) comes from Craig Venter, whose idea of synthesizing DNA on Mars we posted about last week. You may remember a mention of the possibility of synthesizing Martian DNA back here on Earth, too: Venter says that we can do that simply by having the spacecraft email us genetic information on whatever it finds on Mars, and then recreate it in a lab by mixing together nucleotides in just the right way. This sort of thing has already essentially been done by Ventner, who created the world’s first synthetic life form back in 2010.

Read the complete article at DVice.

Tiny, Implantable Telescope Restores Sight For Blind Patients

Advanced age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. in adults over the age of 60. It affects nearly 2 million people in the U.S., with half a million new cases diagnosed every year. It’s a big problem. And until recently, we didn’t have a very good way of treating it. Patients with end-stage degeneration typically had to rely on cumbersome, low-tech solutions to help them see–relics like handheld magnifying glasses and closed-circuit televisions. But earlier this month, a team of surgeons at the UC Davis Eye Center introduced a promising new solution: a tiny, implantable telescope.

To get a sense of how it works, you have to understand the malady it’s intended to treat. As macular degeneration worsens, scarring in the eye creates a foggy black spot in the center of the patient’s vision. The new implant magnifies the image entering the eye two to three times, projecting a larger image onto the scarred macula and thus reducing the size of the blind spot relative to whatever the patient’s looking at. Before, where a patient with AMD might have had a black spot that obscured the entire face of a loved one, rendering them unrecognizable, the telescope magnifies the face so the black spot only takes up a portion of it. It’s not a solution to AMD so much as a workaround for it.

Read the complete article at Fast Design.

Deaf Toddler Receives Bionic Ear, Weeks Later Speaks Her First Word

A two-year old British girl born severely deaf due to a developmental disorder has spoken her first word after receiving a bionic ear.

The medical team led by Dr. Vittorio Colletti, the leading surgeon for installing ear implants in pediatric patients, performed the surgery on Evie Small last June in Verona, Italy. After recovering from swelling in her brain after the surgery, the device was turned on a month later.

In just two weeks, Evie heard her first sound and was able to clearly repeat her mother saying “mumma”.

More than simply enabling her to hear, the device is key to her cognitive development, ability to speak, and otherwise lead a healthy life in a world full of sound. That’s because the bionic ear isn’t a hearing aid — it’s an electronic auditory implant that plugs directly into her tiny brainstem.

Read the complete article at Singularity Hub.

How technology is helping people with speech impairments to talk

The world at his fingertips: Alan Martin shares a joke with Jon Henley. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

I am sitting staring at a computer screen. So far so banal, except that this screen features a red dot that, by some technological magic, tracks the movement of my eyes: I can place it where I want on the screen just by looking. The bottom of the screen portrays a keyboard, although I could, if I chose, select other screens made up of various vocabulary, grammar and expression-based menus, which, for experienced users, would doubtless speed things up.

Because this is painstaking. I look at a letter, and the red dot sits on it. I continue staring, and the dot blinks, twice. The letter then pops up at the top of the screen. I move on to the next letter (or, more often, the backspace).

It gets easier: there’s predictive text, like on a mobile phone, so I stare at the word I want, which gets added to my sentence. Eventually, the phrase is complete. I stare at it and it blinks. “What an amazing machine,” says a cool, synthesised voice. “Rather let down by its user.”

Read the complete article at The Guardian.

Bionic eye goes live in world first by Australian researchers


A blind woman can now see spots of light after being implanted with an early prototype bionic eye, confirming the potential of the world-first technology.

Australian researchers have been working for years to develop the bionic eye, in which electrodes are inserted into the retina of vision-impaired patients.

Dianne Ashworth, 54, was the first patient fitted with the device in surgery at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in May.

Read the complete article at The Age.