April’s top news stories

4 May 2018 (Last Updated May 10th, 2018 13:49)

ETH Zurich researchers in Switzerland created a synthetic gene network that can be implanted and acts as an early warning system for cancer by appearing as a visible mole if the patient develops a tumour, and FDA unveiled an action plan to ensure medical device safety and patient protection while also driving innovation. Medicaldevice-network.com wraps-up the key headlines from April 2018.

April’s top news stories
When calcium levels exceed a particular threshold over a long period of time, this implant under the skin triggers the production of melanin. Credit: ETH Zurich.

Artificial mole could act as early warning system for cancer

A team of researchers from ETH Zurich in Switzerland created a synthetic gene network that can be implanted into the body and acts as an early warning system for cancer by appearing as a visible mole should the patient develop a tumour.

ETH Zurich professor of biotechnology Martin Fussenegger at the department of biosystems science and engineering led the team that created the device, which can recognise the four most common types of cancer: prostate, lung, colon and breast cancer.

It detects the disease at a very early stage by constantly monitoring the blood calcium level of a patient as calcium levels are elevated by developing tumours.


FDA unveils action plan to improve medical device safety

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled an action plan to ensure the safety of medical devices and patient protection while also driving innovation.

Titled ‘Medical Device Safety Action Plan: Protecting Patients, Promoting Public Health’, the proposal seeks better cybersecurity for devices with new and advanced technologies.

The agency will also work towards the optimisation and implementation of post-market mitigations, and a combination of pre and post-market activities to track the total product life cycle (TPLC) of devices.


QR-coded device to help treat Addison’s disease patients

A research team at Newcastle University in the UK developed a Quick Response (QR) code to ensure timely web-based emergency support for patients suffering from Addison’s disease, a rare endocrine disorder.

The QR code can be embedded into bracelets or plastic cards that can be carried by the patients.

When scanned with a smartphone, the code redirects to the Addison’s Disease Information System (ADIS) which offers comprehensive clinical management advice specific to the individual patient.


GE divests healthcare technology unit for $1.05bn

General Electric (GE) entered a definitive agreement to divest the Value-Based Care division under its Healthcare unit to private equity investment firm Veritas Capital for $1.05bn.

An affiliate of Veritas will purchase the Enterprise Financial, Ambulatory Care and Workforce Management assets from GE.

GE expects that Veritas will support its current expertise in healthcare IT segment to bolster the scale and performance of its care division.


Butterfly wings inspire eye implant for monitoring glaucoma

Engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) developed a synthetic analogue coating for eye implants that make them more effective and longer-lasting.

The implant, which aims to improve the monitoring of intra-eye pressure in glaucoma patients, was coated by nanopillars that enable readings to be taken more easily from a handheld device.

These nanopillars were inspired by the structural properties of a longtail glasswing butterfly. Research by Caltech postdoctoral researcher Radwanul Hasan Siddique found that see-through sections of the wings are coated in tiny pillars, each about 100 nanometres in diameter and spaced about 150 nanometres apart.


Hitachi to trial world’s first urine cancer detection test

Japanese engineering and IT firm Hitachi plans to carry out what it claims to be the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples.

If the experiment proves successful, the test could improve the speed and ease of cancer screening significantly.

Hitachi developed the basic technology for detecting breast and colon cancer from urine samples two years ago. The firms’ latest experiment is based in Japan and will involve testing the method on 250 urine samples to observe whether room temperature samples are suitable for analysis.


US researchers develop technology to 3D print cells on skin

Researchers at the University of Minnesota in the US developed technology capable of directly 3D printing biological cells and electronics on skin in real-time.

The portable, customised 3D printer is expected to aid in developing medical treatments for wound healing and allow direct printing of grafts to treat skin disorders.

The low-cost technology could also help soldiers if used to create temporary sensors capable of detecting chemical or biological agents. It could also aid in the 3D printing of solar cells that can charge electronics.


Vaginal implant could protect women from HIV

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada developed a vaginal implant, which could protect women from the HIV infection.

The implant consists of a hollow tube with two pliable arms attached that work to hold it in place. It contains hydroxychloroquine, which is released slowly through the porous material of the tube and absorbed by the walls of the vaginal tract.

When tested in an animal model, the researchers observed that the implants resulted in a significant reduction of T cell activation. This meant that the vaginal tract was successfully demonstrating an immune quiescent state.


Research reveals rats can detect tuberculosis via smell

A study by the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania showed that trained rats can identify tuberculosis (TB) in children more accurately than conventional microscopy tests.

The research is based on the anecdotal evidence that TB patients emit a specific odour and is intended to address the challenges with commonly used diagnostic methods such as a smear test that is cheap but reported to be inaccurate.

According to the researchers, the existing tests are limited due to the quality of sputum samples – a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract – used and very young children usually cannot deliver the required amount.


Smart patch to measure diabetics’ blood sugar without finger pricks

Researchers from the University of Bath developed a non-invasive adhesive patch, which can measure the glucose levels of diabetics without finger-prick blood tests.

The patch, described in a study published in Nature Nanotechnology, is placed on the skin and draws glucose out from fluid between cells across hair follicles. These are individually accessed through a range of miniature sensors, powered by an electric current. Glucose collects in tiny reservoirs and can be measured every ten to 15 minutes over several hours.

“A non-invasive – that is, needleless – method to monitor blood sugar has proven a difficult goal to attain,” said professor of the university’s department of pharmacy and pharmacology Richard Guy.