January’s top news stories

11 February 2019 (Last Updated March 5th, 2019 12:32)

J&J subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals has partnered with Apple on a research project that is intended to boost the diagnosis and outcomes of atrial fibrillation patients, and Thermo Fisher Scientific has entered a definitive agreement to divest its anatomical pathology business to PHC Holdings for $1.14bn. Medicaldevice-network.com wraps up key headlines from January 2019.

January’s top news stories
New research study will assess Apple Watch’s ability to detect and diagnose AFib in early stages. Credit: Create Health.

J&J to study Apple Watch in heart health research project

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals has partnered with Apple on a research project that is intended to boost the diagnosis and outcomes of atrial fibrillation (AFib) patients.

During the study, J&J will combine its heart health monitoring app with the Apple Watch irregular rhythm notifications feature and ECG app.

AFib is a cardiac disorder that could result in serious complications, including stroke. The condition is estimated to cause nearly 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalisations each year in the US.


Thermo Fisher divests anatomical pathology unit for $1.14bn

US-based Thermo Fisher Scientific has entered a definitive agreement to divest its anatomical pathology business to Japanese healthcare firm PHC Holdings for a cash consideration of $1.14bn.

Part of Thermo Fisher’s Specialty Diagnostics division, the anatomical pathology business offers microscope slides, instruments and consumables.

Its portfolio includes laboratory equipment and consumables for cytology and histology testing, rabbit monoclonal antibodies, digital pathology products, and other pathology instruments.


US and German researchers create Alzheimer’s test

A team of researchers from the US and Germany has developed a new, simple blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease even before symptoms appear.

The team involved Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, US and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany.

The researchers designed the Alzheimer’s test to identify blood levels of neurofilament light chain, a structural protein that leaks into the cerebrospinal fluid when brain neurons are damaged or dying.


Brain-computer interface could translate thoughts into speech

Neuroengineers from the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University in the US have developed a brain-computer interface that directly translates thoughts into intelligible, recognisable speech.

The new system offers hope for people with limited or no ability to speak, including patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or those recovering from a stroke. Around one in three patients who have had a stroke have some kind of problem with speech.

Based on speech synthesisers and artificial intelligence (AI), the interface tracks brain activity and clearly reconstructs the words heard by a person.


Abbott’s heart defect treatment device for babies gets FDA approval

Abbott has secured the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder to treat patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) in premature babies and newborns.

PDA is a common congenital cardiac defect that is characterised by an opening between two blood vessels leading from the heart, resulting in difficulty in breathing.

Of the 60,000 premature babies born each year in the US, approximately 12,000 have a haemodynamically significant PDA requiring urgent medical intervention.


Wearable sensor can detect hidden anxiety and depression in children

Researchers at the University of Vermont and the University of Michigan have teamed up to create a tool to screen young children for anxiety and depression, among other internalising disorders, so they can be treated earlier.

The research was published in the latest PLOS ONE journal.

Around one in five children struggle with anxiety and depression issues, which can start as early as the preschool years. Often referred to as ‘internalising disorders’, these conditions can be hard to detect because the symptoms are inward-facing and doctors, parents and teachers often fail to notice them. If left untreated, children with these disorders are at greater risk of substance abuse and suicide later in life.


Smartphone app monitors breathing to identify opioid overdose

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a smartphone app, dubbed Second Chance, to detect opioid overdose and facilitate necessary intervention.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people die in the US due to opioid overdose, which is characterised by the slowing down or cessation of breathing.

If detected in time, these symptoms can be reversed using a drug called naloxone.


Study uses AI to create cost-effective early detector of heart disease

A study by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, US has found that applying artificial intelligence (AI) to electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) results is a simple and affordable way to indicate the early symptoms of asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction, a precursor to heart failure.

The Mayo Clinic research team revealed in a recent paper that AI/ECG test accuracy compares favourably with a range of common screening tests, such as mammography tests for breast cancer and cervical cytology for cervical cancer. The findings have been published in Nature Medicine.

Asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction affects seven million patients in the US and is known to reduce quality of life and longevity.


Researchers create low-cost oesophageal cancer test

A team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have created a test known as the EsophaCap, which could provide a simple and inexpensive screening method for oesophageal cancer.

The research was led by gastroenterologist and professor of medicine and oncology Stephen Meltzer, who has devoted his career to the detection and prevention of oesophageal cancer. A research paper detailing the study has been published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Oesophageal cancer causes more than 400,000 deaths around the world annually and there are nearly half a million new cases each year.


Swiss researchers develop microrobots for targeted treatment

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) institute and ETH Zurich university in Switzerland have created microrobots that can adapt to their surroundings in the human body and enable targeted drug delivery.

Inspired by bacteria, the new ingestible devices contain hydrogel nanocomposites with magnetic nanoparticles. The composition of the devices allows them to be controlled through an electromagnetic field.

The robots are smart, flexible and biocompatible. The team said that the devices can adjust their movements to get to hard-to-reach areas of the body.