CAMBRIDGE, MA (Ivanhoe Newswire) - New gadgets to help you stay health for less money are the medical devices of the future. Cell phones and computers have evolved by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Now, it's time for medical devices to do the same. Right now, researchers are working on new gadgets to improve healthcare and help us save money.
More than $8,000 dollars per person is what Americans spend on healthcare. That is $2.5 trillion and counting.
"Let's make it cheaper," Charlie Sodini LeBel Professor and Co-Director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Medical Electronic Device Realization Center told Ivanhoe.
Professors and students at MIT's MEDRC want to do just that.
"Getting technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace," Brian W. Anthony, Co-Director of MEDRC, said.
"In this experiment we are separating white blood cells from whole blood cells," Haowei Su, an MIT graduate student explained.
A recent study found Americans are throwing away $33 million on unnecessary complete blood cell counts during routine check-ups.
The MEDRC is working to lower the cost of common blood testing and reduce the wait for results. Using micro fluidics, researchers are routing blood cells through a chip with electricity.
"Make some go left, some go right, and some go straight," Joel Voldman, an Associate Professor and co-director of MEDRC, said.
The idea is to create a device that uses a drop of blood instead of a whole vial for various blood tests. It could cut out costly lab work and get patients' results in minutes.
"Do them in the doctor's office, do them at the home so you can get answers much faster, you can get answers much more often," Voldman said.
These researchers are developing a wearable vitals monitor.
"The goal is to have this worn, basically throughout the day," Eric Winokur, an MIT Ph.D. candidate told Ivanhoe.
It measures heart rate and blood pressure at your head, and could help doctors track conditions like high blood pressure more accurately and continuously to better personalize treatment.
Winokur listed some typical questions that patients will be able to get answers to using the device, "Is my medication working? Should I increase it? Should I decrease it? What's my overall health?".
There is also the smart ultrasound. No matter how much you push on the prototype you get consistent images. With a normal ultrasound you get a lot more movement. Researchers hope it will lead to more accurate and more frequent imaging of things like tumors. They want images comparable to x-rays, without the higher cost or risk of radiation.
"Then you have the additional information of more images over time and you've not experienced a radiation dose with each imaging scenario," Anthony said.
Futuristic devices that could keep you and your wallet healthy.
The MEDRC works closely with physicians to understand patient needs. Co-founder Brian Anthony tells us the devices they're creating could be in your doctor's office, or even your home, in the next few years.
BACKGROUND: The vision of the MEDRC is to transform the medical electronic device industries: to revolutionize medical diagnostics and treatments, bringing healthcare directly to the individual; and to create enabling technology for the future information-driven healthcare system. Specific areas that show promise are wearable or minimally invasive monitoring devices, medical imaging, laboratory instrumentation, and the data communication from these devices and instruments to help healthcare providers and caregivers. The MEDRC establishes a partnership between the microelectronics industry, the medical devices industry, medical professionals and MIT to collaboratively achieve improvements in the cost and performance of medical electronic devices similar to those that have occurred in personal computers, communication devices and consumer electronics. (web.mit.edu/medrc)
HOW IT WORKS: MEDRC is using tools to achieve their goal through: Technology scaling research, Digital Design and Tool Research, Analog and mixed-signal design research, product-system and system design.
APPLICATION: MEDRC collaboration will also include GE Global Research, the cornerstone for GE Technology for over 100 years. GE researchers are building more intelligence into ultrasound probes in effort to achieve higher quality images and aid in the diagnosis of disease. The project will also enable a wider range of health care providers to perform scans and ultimately, hopes to make ultrasound more accessible in regions where healthcare services are limited. (eecs-newsletter.mit.edu)
MEDRC hopes the application areas will include: wearable devices, minimally invasive monitors, point-of-care instruments, imaging and data communication.
The MEDRC was founded and will be led by Charlie Sodini, LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering, Microsystems Technology Laboratories; Brian W.Anthony, Director of the Master in Engineering In Manufacturing Program, Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity; and Joel Voldman, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Research Laboratory of Electronics and Microsystems Technology Laboratories.
Joel Voldman, an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT talks about a new and inexpensive way to test your blood.
So if you could tell us exactly what microfluidics means, people might not know what it means but it could really help them in the future.
Joel Voldman: Well, microfluidics is really just using liquids but at very very small scale so instead of using an entire container of blood shown here like you might have at the doctor's office, a lot of the information you can get is from a drop of that blood, so microfluidics is how do you do experiments on that drop of blood.
How far are we in with microfluidics right now?
Joel Voldman: It's actually been around for quite awhile, about 30 years and so we've developed all the little components you need to move liquid around, to separate liquid around, and now the real goal is how do you take all those components and put them together to do something useful.
And what are you trying to do here?
Joel Voldman: What we're trying to do here is develop microfluidic systems that would be able to handle blood and do it using all electronic methods to separate the blood and to do the measurements so you can make a very compact and inexpensive system.
And what would that mean for patients and doctors?
Joel Voldman: Really you can take a lot of the tests that are done in a central laboratory and now do them in the doctor's office or do them at the home so you can get answers much faster; you can get answers much more often and that would really improve the health care experience.
What kind of tests, can I go more into that?
Joel Voldman: Well, really we're focusing on tests that involve some liquid from your body and the most common liquid that people make tests from is blood and so all the things you might get tested for from blood, from molecules to cells. If you're sick, some of the cells get activated, or you could even think about more longer-term applications like there are very small numbers of stem cells in your blood and we're thinking about ways of separating those out.
So talk about the science behind this how does this all work right here?
Joel Voldman: Well it turns out your cells are little electrical objects like everything else in the world and by applying electric fields— essentially having two wires and applying a little voltage between them—you can cause those cells to move and different cells or cells with different properties move differently and by exploiting that at the micro scale which is the scale of cells you can actually do these types of separations.
Wow, so you can pretty much route the way you want things to go
Joel Voldman: That's exactly what we're trying to do is make some go left and some go right and some go straight.
And what is the benefit of doing that cell separation, what does that do?
Joel Voldman: Well sometimes for instance just knowing the number of cells, you know, you're white blood cell count, is actually a clinical indicator and so the separation can be the end, or it might be that you then take that sub-population that you've made go left and then you bring that to another device that actually does more measurements on those cells.
Separated cell by cell…
Joel Voldman: We're doing cell by cell, but many of them, but still in a drop of blood.
It seems like the possibilies of this helping a lot of people in a short amount of time? or are we looking at a longer period of time before we actually see this on the market
Joel Voldman: We're starting to see these types of technologies, these microfluidic systems, starting to enter the market and I think in the 5 to10 year timeframe you'll start to see them more and more, so we're really on the verge.
And how has it been working on this, you said you'd been working on this for 8-9 years now, what did you seen in that time?
Joel Voldman: Well the sophistication of what we can do in terms of how we handle liquids and what we can do with them has really increased dramatically the robustness of being able to do things everyday rather than just once is really happening now, so we're really at this sweet spot in the development curve where these types of technologies are poised to come out.
And have you had any results, have you tried to do cholesterol tests or something along those lines to see if it works yet?
Joel Voldman: We've been doing a number of different types of separations, what we'll show you in a minute are separations of the different blood components and then we're also looking at things like separating out blood stem cells, really looking at the different cellular sub-populations within the blood.
And being under the scope of MEDRC? How has that helped?
Joel Voldman: Well, the great thing about the MEDRC is by having this set of faculty researchers, companies, and the clinical community, you can find problems that have a market—a business case— can be technically done- and have clinical utility all at once, whereas if you're just working by yourself it's harder to find those ideal opportunites.
So we're talking about trying it out on the research market beforehand?
Joel Voldman: Yes it's really an uncommon way of doing business at university, but if you really want to translate university research into the market place, I think it's the best way to go.
So again, tell me your hopes and dreams with this…what it can do in the doctor's office and at home.
Joel Voldman: I'd love to see a little box that's the size of this (pointing) that I can have in the doctor's office so that when I go for my yearly check-up while I'm sitting there, I could be getting the results to various tests that the doctor, the physician, thinks are important and that then we can talk about the follow-up—the therapies—rather than have to wait a week, get a call; schedule a follow-up visit; really shorten the time. That will be wonderful.
How quickly could that come back with the result?
Joel Voldman: Well, the separations, the actual measurements that people are doing are often very fast it's just that when you go to the central lab it takes time to just do that, get into the queue and so on, so I think if you're thinking about something at the point of care you want something in the 10 minute timeframe or less.
So is that what you're shooting for?
Joel Voldman: That's what we're shooting for.
Like you said instead of sending off to a lab, waiting a week, having to call the doctor, go back into the office-just do it all in that one visit, and that's a real possibility now…
Joel Voldman: It's a real possibility.
So how much longer until it's perfected-how close to perfection are you guys on this?
Joel Voldman: Ah, perfection is illusive, we have feasibility and then going from feasibility to let's say a product, that's what we're trying to do as part of the MEDRC, is to really move along that pipeline and we shoot for sort of a 5 to 10 year timeframe.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Coleen Kinsella Administrative Assistant II Massachusetts Institute of Technology (617) 253-6857 firstname.lastname@example.org
Medical News HeadlinesMedical News HeadlinesMore>>
Wednesday, December 4 2013 5:15 PM EST2013-12-04 22:15:09 GMT
Constant diarrhea, abdominal pain, and intestinal bleeding are just some of the symptoms inflammatory bowel disease patients endure. Now, there's a new therapy for people who have tried everything.more>>
One point four million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases –like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. Constant diarrhea, abdominal pain, and intestinal bleeding are just some of the symptoms these patients endure. Now, there's a new therapy for people who have tried everything.more>>
Monday, December 2 2013 5:15 PM EST2013-12-02 22:15:04 GMT
Nearly a million children a year injure their eyes and half of those injuries happen in the home. The younger a child is fitted with a new eye the better.more>>
Nearly a million children a year injure their eyes and half of those injuries happen in the home. Scissors, running with pencils, throwing rocks, sharp corners, and power tools are all to blame. The younger a child is fitted with a new eye the better.more>>
Friday, November 22 2013 5:15 PM EST2013-11-22 22:15:07 GMT
You may think you can avoid them, but in reality most of the foods on your supermarkets shelves contain at least one GMO. When it comes to the GMO debate, things are moving too fast for people to digest.more>>
You may think you can avoid them, but in reality most of the foods on your supermarkets shelves contain at least one GMO. Are they safe? Should you take genetically modified foods off your menu? When it comes to the GMO debate, things are moving too fast for people to digest.more>>