Like a lot of things, skincare products work best if they’re tailored to individual users. Unfortunately, though, such bespoke items tend to be expensive. German startup Skinmade is out to change that, with kiosks that mix and dispense relatively affordable skin creams that are based on each client’s unique needs.

Utilizing technology developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation, the Skinmade system was first announced last December. Kiosks are now present in Douglas cosmetics stores in Frankfurt, Hamburg and Sindelfingen, with a country-wide rollout scheduled to take place by the end of the year.

Aided by a store employee, each touchscreen-equipped machine analyzes the skin on the client’s forehead, cheek, and below the corner of their mouth. It utilizes methods including corneometry, in which a capacitive sensor is used to measure skin hydration levels; sebumetry, in which a strip of film is pressed against the skin and then optically analyzed in order to ascertain the skin’s lipid (fat) levels; and a proprietary technique that’s used to measure the skin’s elasticity.

That data is processed using cloud-based machine-learning algorithms and neural networks, ultimately determining a formula for the present user. A variety of ingredients are then mixed within the machine, resulting in a 30-ml (1-oz) jar of custom face cream being dispensed within seven minutes. The cost of one jar is €40 (about US$45), and users are advised to check back to the kiosk once every six weeks, to see if a new formulation may be necessary due to changes in their skin.

Plans call for a service to be launched in which Skinmade consultants will use mobile units to perform readings in clients’ homes, with the cream subsequently arriving by mail. Additionally, the company intends to offer an app-based mini analyzer for home use by clients, which should be released sometime next year.

In the meantime, potential buyers might want to check out Neutrogena’s MaskiD system, which fabricates 3D-printed skincare masks that are customized to the shape and needs of each client’s face.

Skinmade kiosks produce client-specific face cream on demand [New Atlas]

Cocaine used as anesthesia. Heroin as an asthma treatment. Leeches as a remedy for all manners of ailments. Morphine recommended to calm a teething baby. Radium-filled water given for arthritis pain.

The history of medicine is filled with extraordinary treatments and theories that today are looked upon as not just kooky, but downright dangerous. The more one learns about the cockamamie ideas espoused by doctors as recently as the early 20th, the more astonishing it is that humans have survived for so long!

But survived we have, and today there are more exciting breakthroughs in the field of medicine than ever before. Read on to learn about a few advances that prove what a golden age of healthcare we are experiencing!

Pharmacogenomic Testing

Have you ever known someone who seemed impervious to painkillers? Often, people who require a higher-than-average doses of opioids appear to be drug-seeking or chasing a high, but that’s not always the case. Tolerance for, and reaction to, medications varies widely. In fact, redheads have been shown to require 20% more anesthesia than others.

Pharmacogenomic testing, or drug-gene testing, is a way to predict how a particular person will react to a particular drug based on his or her genetics. It looks not just at the efficacy of a medication, but also at potential side effects and adverse reactions.

One of the most promising applications of pharmacogenomics is that it could be used to more accurately prescribe opioid medications, thereby helping to combat the current opioid crisis. As genomic testing in general becomes more commonplace, gene-drug testing may help put powerful painkillers in the hands of people who truly need them, and out of reach for everyone else.

3D Printing of Medical Devices

Did you know that the earliest prosthetics date back to ancient Egypt? Peg legs and hooks for hands are the stuff of pirate lore — not to mention urban legend horror stories — but being able to replace a missing limb or other body part with a working prosthetic device is incredibly valuable for a patient’s physical and psychological well-being.

The invention of 3D printing has made an enormous difference in the quality, functionality, and affordability of artificial limbs. Tailor-making a limb or orthopedic implant according to the individual patient’s specifications helps the body accept it, makes it more comfortable, and improves post-prosthetic quality of life.

One day, it might be as commonplace to print a new hand for a person as it currently is to print a book.

Robotic Surgery

If you still think of robots as clunky metal creatures that move stiffly while intoning “beep boop” or “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave” — you need to get up to speed. Today, robot-assisted technology helps surgeons to operate with more precision, accuracy, flexibility, and control. Using robots, surgeons can conduct operations that would otherwise be deemed too delicate, detailed, complex, or risky.

Surgical outcomes are also improved through the use of robotics. These outcomes include less pain and faster recovery. And although we’ll always need the skilled expertise of an experienced surgeon, robots help eliminate human error.

Telemedicine and Other Technological Advances

Having to drag yourself to the doctor when you’re suffering from the flu can be a real — well, a real drag. Of course, visiting a physician’s office, clinic or hospital when you have come down with an infectious disease also posits a very real risk of transmitting that disease. These are just two of the reasons that telemedicine is poised to revolutionize the healthcare industry.

Patients benefit from telemedicine because a video doctor visit saves time and money, is easy, and eliminates the odds of infecting, or being infected by, other sick people. Not only that, but they can be seen 24/7 without having to wait for hours in a crowded emergency department.

From the provider standpoint, telemedicine can relieve the burden of overbooked practices and the shortage of medical providers that plagues much of the country. It also helps cut down on overhead expenses and frees up nurses and physicians’ assistants to devote more time to patients who require in-person care.

Even when a provider’s diagnostic services aren’t required, technology can streamline every aspect of medical care. From booking appointments to requesting prescriptions, patient can now use an Android or iPhone app for medical records management, communication, screening potential drug interactions, and much more.

The Takeaway

These are truly exciting times for the healthcare industry, and the people who require its services. Robots in the operating room, personalized prescription medicine, and the ability to connect with your physician at the touch of a button are just a few of the advances that we can look forward to in 2019 and beyond.

If someone is taking medication for something as important as preventing HIV, it goes without saying that they shouldn’t be lackadaisical about doing so. A new electronically-augmented swallowable capsule is designed to help, by letting patients and physicians know if doses are missed.

The capsule is part of the ID-Cap system, developed by Florida-based company etectRx. That system consists of the gelatine ID-Capsule, the electronic ID-Tag which sits curled up inside the capsule, and the externally-worn ID-Cap Reader device.

The ID-Capsule is filled with medication and gets swallowed, just like any other pharmaceutical capsule. Once it dissolves within the digestive tract, both the medication and the ID-Tag are released. Powered by a chemical reaction with the stomach fluids, the tag proceeds to emit a low-power radio signal. That signal is picked up by the Reader, which is worn against the chest on a lanyard.

Equipped with a Bluetooth module, the Reader then wirelessly notifies an app on the user’s smartphone, confirming that the capsule has been swallowed. That app is connected to the internet, allowing both patients and their doctors to track “patient ingestion events” on an online dashboard in real time. If doses are missed, that dashboard will tell them.

The Reader gets wirelessly recharged between uses, and can easily be taken off as needed. And should you be wondering, the single-use ID-Tags simply get passed with the feces.

ID-Cap is currently awaiting US Food and Drug Administration approval, which may occur later this year. In the meantime, it will be the subject of a 90-day study being conducted in partnership with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Fenway Institute at Fenway Health. Participants will be using the system to monitor their ingestion of the daily-dose HIV-prevention drug Truvada (tenofovir/emtricitabine) for PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).

According to etectRX, “The purpose of the study is to examine medication adherence patterns and understand how adherence can be increased among populations at risk for HIV infection.”

And as a side note, Proteus Digital Health already offers a similar system in which an ingestible chip gets embedded in pills, and transmits a signal to a patch worn on the skin.

Electronic capsule tracks oral drug doses [New Atlas]

For some time now, we’ve been hearing about implantable scaffolding-like material that helps heal injuries to bones. Scientists have now developed a new type of that material, aimed specifically at difficult-to-treat osteochondral injuries.

The long bones in our arms and legs have a layer of smooth, compressible cartilage at each end, which gradually transitions to hard bone underneath. This dual-density combo is known as osteochondral tissue, and when it develops cracks or otherwise gets damaged, conditions such as disabling arthritis can result. Although such injuries frequently afflict athletes, they can occur in pretty much anyone.

For injuries to more uniform types of bone, various scientific institutions have created the previously-mentioned scaffolding. Implanted at the injury site, the three-dimensional material basically provides a roosting site for bone cells, helping them to move in from the adjacent bone and start reproducing. Eventually, they simply take over from the material, replacing it as it harmlessly dissolves.

Now, researchers from the University of Maryland and Houston-based Rice University have developed a version of this material that’s tailored to healing osteochondral tissue.

Fabricated by a 3D printer, it’s composed partly of a soft polymer with a cartilage-like consistency, which transitions to a bone-like hard ceramic. A network of pores within both substances let cartilage and bone cells migrate into them, plus those pores also allow for the infiltration of blood vessels.

The scientists are now looking at methods of printing implants that precisely fit each patient’s specific injury. Ultimately, they hope that the technology could improve peoples’ lives.

“Athletes are disproportionately affected by these injuries, but they can affect everybody,” says Rice bioengineering grad student Sean Bittner. “I think this will be a powerful tool to help people with common sports injuries.”

Bittner and Rice bioengineer Antonios Mikos are leading the research, which is described in a paper that was published this week in the journal Acta Biomaterialia.

3D-printed material is designed to treat difficult bone injuries [New Atlas]

In the not-too-distant future, when congestive heart failure patients are being released from hospital, they may be given a special toilet seat to take home. That device would measure their vital signs every time they sit on it, sending alerts if more heart trouble were detected.

Developed by a team at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the seat is equipped with an electrocardiogram, ballistocardiogram, and a photoplethysmogram. These allow it measure the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygenation levels, body weight and stroke volume, which is the amount of blood that the heart pumps out with each beat.

Special algorithms analyze all that data, and determine if the patient’s condition is deteriorating – a diagnosis can be made even before the patient develops any noticeable symptoms. Once developed further, the seat would then transmit a notification to the user’s physician.

In many cases, it’s possible that a visit to the doctor’s office is all that would be required, or just a change in medication. This would be less disruptive and much less expensive than a readmission to the hospital, which is currently quite common for recuperating congestive heart failure patients.

“Typically, within 30 days of hospital discharge, 25 percent of patients with congestive heart failure are readmitted,” says postdoctoral fellow Nicholas Conn. “After 90 days of hospital discharge, 45 percent of patients are readmitted.”

The technology is now being developed by spin-off company Heart Health Intelligence, of which Conn is the CEO.

Techy toilet seat made to monitor heart patients [New Atlas]

We’re used to the security risks posed by someone hacking into our computers, tablets, and smartphones, but what about pacemakers and other implanted medical devices? To help prevent possible murder-by-hacker, engineers at Purdue University have come up with a watch-like device that turns the human body into its own network as a way to keep personal technology private.

Since it became commonplace a little over 15 years ago, wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have been a liberating experience. These made it normal to log onto the internet without cables or wires, and also made possible things like wireless headsets, earbuds, and the smart home. It’s also making very personal technologies like fitness trackers, smart watches, and advanced pacemakers, insulin pumps, robotic prosthetics, and other medical devices possible.

According to the Purdue team, this poses a potential problem. Currently, what are called body-area networks use Bluetooth technology to send and receive signals between various devices on our persons. Unfortunately, these devices transmit to a distance of up to 10 m (33 ft), which means that anyone in close proximity can intercept the signal and potentially hack into it. And while no one has done so yet, it’s also theoretically possible to get into something like an advanced pacemaker and commit murder with the press of an ENTER key.

To prevent this, the Purdue team led by Shreyas Sen, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is looking at how to turn the human body into its own closed network. By using Electro-Quasistatic Human Body Communications (EQS-HBC) and the conductive properties of the body to transmit a low-frequency, carrier-less radio signal along the interface between the skin and its surroundings, the result is a signal that never transmits farther than a centimeter away from the body. This not only makes the link extremely hard to hack, it uses 100 times less energy than a regular Bluetooth connection.

At the moment, the prototype device is about the size of a very thick watch, but Sen and his team are working on how to reduce its scale to that of a dust-sized integrated circuit that can be installed in other devices. When the technology is mature, it will not only improve security, but it will also allow doctors to enable medical devices that can be reprogrammed without invasive surgery, closed-loop bioelectronic medical devices to replace drugs, and high-speed brain imaging for neuroscience applications.

“We’re connecting more and more devices to the human body network from smartwatches and fitness trackers to head-mounted virtual reality displays,” says Sen. “The challenge has not only been keeping this communication within the body so that no one can intercept it, but also getting higher bandwidth and less battery consumption.”

Prototype watch uses your body to prevent hacking of wearables and implants [New Atlas]

Electrical bandages, ones that allow electric current to make contact with the wound, have been known for a while to be very effective at speeding up healing. Over the past decade there’s been a great deal of technological development in this field, but the mechanism behind why these “electroceuticals” really work has been poorly understood. Now researchers at Ohio State University have shown that these devices disrupt the formation of bacterial biofilms, which are how cells group together to defend themselves against antibiotics and the body’s immune system.

Biofilms are held together by so-called extracellular polymeric substances, which are conglomerations of mostly fats and proteins that few things can break through. The Ohio State researchers have shown that the right electrical impulses coming from properly placed materials destroy the extracellular polymeric substances and so don’t allow a safe space for bacteria to grow.

The researchers developed a highly detailed weave for bandages using a Japanese technique called haboti. This allowed them to deliver the electric current to a bacterial biofilm with great precision. They then studied bacterial biofilms that were treated with the bandage under an electron microscope, which allowed them to see exactly what was being affected, and that it was not the bacteria themselves but the protective structure around them.

The new knowledge will certainly help designers of electroceuticals to focus better on their targets, which will hopefully improve the effectiveness of these devices.

Scientists Explain Why Electric Bandages Work [Medgadget]

Imagine that you are an entrepreneur who has just launched a line of wellness products. These products could be healthy snacks, canned beverages or even natural beauty products. You have spent years developing these products and worked tirelessly to brand them in a way that sets you apart from the competition. After all, your business is your passion and getting your products into the hands of health-conscious consumers is your number-one mission.

Now, imagine how powerful it would be to get thousands of people to try out your products for the first time. After all, what could be more influential than that person then telling their friends about how great your products are? This was easy back when a market was the local community.  But today, an average grocery store has 40,000 to 50,000 different items.  How likely is it for a consumer to even see a product on the shelves, let alone try it and tell their friends? How can a small brand get consumers to try their product and to tell their friends?

One way for a small brand to get consumers to try a new product is to do sampling programs in stores.  These in-store demos allow consumers to try out the product and immediately make a purchase. There is no doubt that these demos act as a powerful marketing tool.  Unfortunately, many stores severely limit the sampling and can even charge significant fees to do it.  It can easily cost more than $500 per store to sample for a single day. So, if a company samples in 100 stores, it can cost over $50,000.  That is a lot of money.

Word of mouth appears like it should be a little easier. We are lucky enough to live in a time when we have the ultimate word of mouth platform – social media.  The idea of social media and social influencers in particular is a small brand’s dream.  There is a lot of promise.  Tomoson estimates that that every $1 spent on social media influencers generates $6.50 in revenue. According to another study by Nielsen Catalina Solutions, influencer marketing is 11 times more effective than standard digital advertising.

Unfortunately, the reality falls far short most of the time.  The sad fact is that influencer marketing is filled with fraud.  In a survey of its members, the Association of National Advertisers found only 36% said they judged their influencer marketing efforts as effective.  Anti-fraud company Sway Ops found that a single day’s worth of posts tagged using the recommended hashtags #sponsored or #ad contained over 50% fake engagements and that bots are responsible for over 40% of total comments. Maybe that is why Social Chain declared that, “influencer fraud has conned our industry out of millions, making it the biggest scam in the history of marketing.” And Media Metrix states that it is only getting worse.  It found that the demand for fake Instagram followers increased 71% in just the last year.

So, what is a small brand supposed to do?

There is a new program called Healthy-Finds that helps small natural health brands get their products into the hands of health-conscious consumers while generating some great social media buzz in the process.  The best part is that there is very little cost to the brands.

According to founder, Pete Meyer, Healthy-Finds was launched with the mission to connect small natural health brands with health-conscious consumers.  Mr. Meyer saw the natural health market to be heavily skewed in favor of large companies that can afford $50k sampling programs and large national social media campaigns. As a result, he launched Healthy-Finds as a monthly subscription program to help consumers find and try innovative health products. But perhaps the biggest opportunity for small natural health brands is the cross promotional platform that Healthy-Finds has launched to help promote its program.

Here’s how natural health brands can work with Healthy-Finds to get their products into the hands of consumers at little to no costs to them:

  • If Healthy-Finds agrees to work with a particular brand, then Healthy-Finds will line up a series of influencers to promote the brand’s product.
  • Healthy-Finds covers ALL the costs of the influencers, removing the risk from the brands.
  • The influencers will try the product and post standard Instagram stories/posts with one exception—they will promote a product giveaway where all of their followers can get a free product.  All the followers will need to do to is to pay a small shipping fee.

Consumers love the ability to try a brand-new product for just a few dollars.  According to Healthy-Finds, influencers with less than thirty thousand followers have had over 100 people claim the products for just a few dollars in shipping.  Companies appear to love it too as a way to reach truly qualified customers. After all, anyone will take a product for free! But to pay a few dollars to try a new product means the consumer is truly interested in trying it.  The kicker is that Healthy-Finds also pays the company to ship the item.  Most companies get $10 from Healthy-Finds for each product they send out.  For some companies, this covers all of their costs.  Others can’t cover all their costs with the $10, but feel the resulting campaign is worth the expense.

Imagine what it would cost for a small brand to launch a social media campaign to give away 5,000 products to interested consumers.  Between the management costs, media fees, product costs and shipping, it could easily cost more than $50,000.  Most small brands don’t have that kind of money to spend on social media promotion.  But if they work with Healthy-Finds that same campaign may not cost them a thing.  Even if it costs them $2 per giveaway, there is no risk for the brand.  They only have a cost if it is successful.  If no consumers claim a free product, the brand has no costs. But if the campaign is successful, the brand gets 5,000 of their products into the hands of interested consumers, thousands of additional email registrations and potentially more than $50,000 worth of social media promotion.

Sounds too good to be true, right? What is the catch? Healthy-Finds isn’t a non-profit who is subsidizing healthy new brands out of the goodness of their hearts.  They do this to promote their online subscription program. Here’s how it works:

  • When the influencers promote the giveaway, they send people to Healthy-Finds to claim their products.
  • When they claim these products, Healthy-Finds gives the consumer a chance to try their program for free.  According to Healthy-Finds, it has proven to be the most efficient way to get people to try their membership platform.  As Pete Meyer describes, many people who want to try the natural health products opt to try Healthy-Finds as well.
  • Of those who try Healthy Finds, most end up subscribing to Healthy-Finds and most subscribers stick around for a long time.  So that is why Healthy-Finds is willing to cover most of the costs for these campaigns.

Healthy-Finds can’t work with all brands and products within the marketplace. The brands need to have products that are approved by Healthy-Find’s wellness team. They need to have products that have a “wow factor” with influencers and consumers.  The brand also has to be willing to give away thousands of their products over time. If Healthy-Finds thinks the product has a shot, they do a test campaign and see what consumers think. Ultimately it is up to the consumers, which is how this industry should work after all.

To learn more about Healthy-Finds, please visit www.healthy-finds.com.

 

 

One of the many ways scientists are working to unravel the mysteries of Alzheimer’s is by conducting experiments on mice that have been genetically engineered to develop the disease. Researchers pondering the protective potential of compounds found in green tea and carrots have again taken this route and returned some promising results, with the Alzheimer’s mice demonstrating unimpaired cognitive function following a carefully designed bout of treatment.

The research was carried out by medical scientists at the University of Southern California and involved a pair of compounds found in green tea and carrots. The first is ferulic acid, or FA, an antioxidant found in carrots rice and tomatoes that has shown potential in this area. The other is called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, and is a key ingredient in green tea that has shown promise in research projects aiming to develop Alzheimer’s treatments, better protect teeth, deliver cancer-killing drugs and even prevent heart attacks.

“We had previously shown that each of these compounds on their own could reduce Alzheimer’s changes in brains of mice genetically programmed to develop the disease,” senior author on the study Terrence Town tells New Atlas.

Town and his colleagues designed a study to see how the two work might work in tandem to treat Alzheimer’s. Thirty-two mice with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms were enlisted for the experiment and divided into four groups with the males and females split evenly, while healthy mice were also thrown into each group for the sake of comparison.

Over a period of three months, one group was fed a combination of EGCG and FA, one group was fed EGCG alone, another FA alone and the final group a placebo. The compounds were administered in dosages of 30 milligram per kilogram of body weight, which the scientists say is in line with what a human would consume as part of a healthy diet.

The mice were put through neurophysiological tests before and after the regime, and by observing changes in their behavior the scientists were able to tease out some useful insights. These exercises are claimed to be more or less analogous to those used to test thinking and memory capacity in human dementia patients, and the most fruitful of them was a spatial working memory test using a Y-shaped maze.

Where healthy mice are able to explore each arm of the Y maze on the hunt for food or an escape in a well-reasoned manner, impaired mice soon become disoriented. The special diet, however, seemed to put their performance back on par, completely restoring their spatial working memory and enabling them to perform just as well as the healthy mice. The Alzheimer’s mice performed better in other tests, too.

“We conducted a battery of cognitive tests and found reversal of other cognitive aspects, such as reduced anxiety-like behavior in an open field and remediated spatial reference memory in a radial arm water maze,” Town tells us.

While scientists don’t know exactly why this happened, they have some ideas. The buildup of brain plaque called amyloid beta is commonly associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s and indeed countless research projects have probed these toxic proteins in hope of uncovering new ways to treat or even reverse the disease. The scientists suspect these natural compounds may be intervening in their accumulation.

“One mechanism appeared to be the substances’ ability to prevent amyloid precursor proteins from breaking up into the smaller proteins called amyloid beta that gum up Alzheimer patients’ brains,” Town says. “In addition, the compounds appeared to reduce neuroinflammation and oxidative stress in the brain – key aspects of Alzheimer’s pathology in humans.”

It is currently unknown how these results will translate to humans, if at all. And though treating Alzheimer’s certainly isn’t as simple as drinking more tea or eating more carrots, the scientists are buoyed by the study because they say it sheds more light on the role a healthy diet might play in its onset. They will now continue investigating other plant-derived compounds that can also block the buildup of the amyloid beta plaques, in hope of working toward combination therapies that can stave off its effects.

“You don’t have to wait ten to 12 years for a designer drug to make it to market; you can make these dietary changes today,” says Town. “I find that very encouraging.”

Green tea and carrot compounds found to reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice [New Atlas]

Tyto Care is an on-demand telehealth provider based in Israel that hopes to bring all aspects of a doctor’s visit to the home. Beyond the limits of traditional telemedicine, the platform also allows patients to conduct their own physical exam using a device that combines a camera, stethoscope, otoscope, thermometer, and tongue depressor.

The idea began after Co-Founder and CEO Dedi Gilad, whose daughter had recurrent ear infections as a child, figured there was a better way to receive medical care than repeated visits to a doctor. “He couldn’t understand why he needed to go into these flu clinics or get out of work in order to take his daughter, day after day, into a clinic,” recalls Ophir Lotan, VP of Product and Implementation at Tyto Care. “As an engineer, he started thinking about a potential solution to this issue.”

That solution was TytoCare. Since the company’s launch in 2012, it has raised over $56 million and evolved to become a mobile platform with a sleek physical exam kit. TytoCare works by connecting patient and physician through the TytoApp on a smartphone or tablet. Once the video call is connected, the physician assesses symptoms and guides the patient through a basic physical exam using the toolkit. Patients can measure heart rate and body temperature, capture heart and lung sounds, and obtain images and videos of the ears, throat, and skin. Based on symptoms and physical exam findings, the physician can make recommendations and prescribe appropriate medications. Alternatively, the patient can conduct an independent physical exam guided solely by the mobile app.

Making the patient-conducted exam accurate is a key part of the technology, says Lotan. “We have built-in guidance technology so we not only guide the user on how to capture the right data, we also in real time analyze the data and determine whether the data captured is of good quality.” And it works, he says, citing a study done at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center, a leading children’s hospital in Israel, which “confirmed that Tyto’s capability to perform a physical examination is on par with conventional in-clinic examination tools.”

Since validating its tools and platform, TytoCare has expanded rapidly. The company launched in the US after receiving FDA clearance in 2017, and plans to expand further into Europe and Canada after receiving the CE Mark and Health Canada approval in 2018. The company is also looking to move into Asian markets such as China and Japan.

Although not currently available directly to consumers, TytoCare partners with a variety of health providers. “We’ve partnered with 50 health organizations,” says Lotan, “including a wide range of the leading US health systems, top telehealth companies, retailers, large private practices, and some self-insured employers.”

In the end, the team behind TytoCare sees itself as more than just a telehealth platform with a highly accurate physical exam kit. “We’re very excited about what we’re doing,” says Lotan, “and the fact that we could potentially positively impact the way consumers utilize healthcare.”

Tyto Care Brings the Doctor’s Visit to Home: Interview with Ophir Lotan [Medgadget]

Did you know that back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide? Low-back pain costs Americans at least $50 billion in health care costs each year.

There are lots of causes and reasons behind back pain. There are also tons of at-home solutions that pop up all over the internet.

What if you could have a doctor approved device to use whenever you wanted right in the comfort of your home? Well, meet The Back Pedal.

Designed by a Doctor of Physical Therapy, this device was created to strengthen the right muscles in the right way. What does that mean, exactly? Sometimes our body, if in an already incorrect position, will over compensate when we’re moving throughout life. Our pelvis, which is the foundation of the body’s support, can shift or tilt out of alignment. The Back Pedal helps strengthen the muscles when your Pelvis is in the correct position, which treats and really gets to the bottom of the underlying causes of back pain. No more temporary solutions, no more Band-Aids. Just support and healing.

The Back Pedal is super easy to use—in fact, patients are seeing results within two weeks. Its compact design fits easily in any room or storage container and can even come with you on your morning commute if you need to do some strengthening in the office. (We wouldn’t judge. Sitting down all day causes slouching and, you guessed it, a tilted pelvis!)

Fix your back pain at its source and keep it from coming back. The Back Pedal is available to back now on KickStarter. Early Bird backers can snag one unit for just $35 USD. Visit their page here (insert link) to snag one before they’re gone!

Back Pedal: A smarter solution for back pain [New Atlas]

Imagine a day when a bioprinter filled with a patient’s own cells can be wheeled right to the bedside to treat large wounds or burns by printing skin, layer by layer, to begin the healing process. That day is not far off.

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) scientists have created such a mobile skin bioprinting system—the first of its kind—that allows bi-layered skin to be printed directly into a wound.

“The unique aspect of this technology is the mobility of the system and the ability to provide on-site management of extensive wounds by scanning and measuring them in order to deposit the directly where they are needed to create skin,” said Sean Murphy, Ph.D., a WFIRM assistant professor who was lead author of the paper published this month in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal.

Affecting millions of Americans, chronic, large or non-healing wounds such as diabetic pressure ulcers are especially costly because they often require multiple treatments. It is also estimated that burn injuries account for 10-30 percent of combat casualties in conventional warfare for military personnel.

The major skin cells— and epidermal keratinocytes—are easily isolated from a small biopsy of uninjured tissue and expanded. Fibroblasts are cells that synthesize the extracellular matrix and collagen that play a critical role in wound healing while keratinocytes are the predominant cells found in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.

The cells are mixed into a hydrogel and placed into the bioprinter. Integrated imaging technology involving a device that scans the wound, feeds the data into the software to tell the print heads which cells to deliver exactly where in the wound layer by layer. Doing so replicates and accelerates the formation of normal skin structure and function.

The researchers demonstrated proof-of-concept of the system by printing skin directly onto pre-clinical models.

The next step is to conduct a clinical trial in humans. Currently, to treat wounds and burns are the “gold standard” technique, but adequate coverage of wounds is often a challenge particularly when there is limited availability of healthy skin to harvest. Skin grafts from donors are an option, but risk immune rejection of the graft and scar formation. With the WFIRM bioprinter system the researchers could see new skin forming outward from the center of the wound and this only happened when the patient’s own cells were used, because the tissues were accepted and not rejected.

“The technology has the potential to eliminate the need for painful skin grafts that cause further disfigurement for patients suffering from large wounds or burns,” said WFIRM Director Anthony Atala, M.D., and a co-author of the paper. “A mobile bioprinter that can provide on-site management of extensive wounds could help to accelerate the delivery of care and decrease costs for patients.”

“If you deliver the patient’s own cells, they do actively contribute to wound healing by organizing up front to start the much faster,” said James Yoo, M.D., Ph. D, who led the research team and co-authored the paper. “While there are other types of wound healing products available to treat and help them close, those products don’t actually contribute directly to the creation of .”

Mobile bedside bioprinter can heal wounds [Medicalxpress]

Motion sickness can be a debilitating condition for many people, preventing them from traveling and engaging in various activities such as sailing. There are a few drugs available to control motion sickness, but they have side effects such as drowsiness and for many people are simply a choice of choosing one discomfort over another.

A new device, developed by Otolith Labs, a company out of Washington, DC, may soon become a new, drug-free option for managing the symptoms of motion sickness.

The Otolith device consists of a vibrating gadget, attached to a headband, that is placed behind the ear. The vibrator works on the principle of bone conduction, that some hearing aids utilize, to stimulate the vestibular system. The signals that are delivered are essentially random white noise, the purpose of which seems to be to confuse the brain into ignoring motion signals altogether.

Motion sickness results from conflicting signals reaching the brain, the brain becoming confused as it can’t reconcile what the eyes and vestibular system are telling it. The Otolith device seems to disrupt the vestibular system’s signal so much that the brain automatically starts to disregard it completely, and the conflict between signals essentially disappears.

The technology is already proving itself in initial trials, but there’s a lot more work left to prove it in larger trials, as well as get a grasp on the actual underlying mechanism that it’s activating.

Electronic Headband for Drug-Free Motion Sickness Therapy [Medgadget]

 

It’s no secret that spider silk is one of nature’s most incredible materials. It’s light and stretchy, as strong as steel and tougher than Kevlar – and now scientists have discovered a weird new ability. A team led by MIT has found that when exposed to a certain level of humidity, spider silk suddenly shrinks and twists, which could make it useful in artificial muscles.

Although the two motions happen at the same time, only the shrinking was previously known. This “supercontraction” was found to occur in response to moisture, which is believed to help keep the fibers taut in the morning dew. After all, tight fibers conduct vibrations better, so the spider can better hear the dinner bell.

But while investigating this reaction to humidity, the team working on the current study discovered it wasn’t just shrinking but twisting too. The researchers suspended a weight from silk as a makeshift pendulum, then cranked up the humidity in a chamber. To their surprise, the pendulum started spinning once the humidity reached a certain point.

To figure out just how this twisting occurs, the team examined spider silk in the lab and created computer models of its molecular makeup. The culprit turned out to be an amino acid called proline, which is found in a key silk protein called MaSp2. Water molecules were found to break some of its hydrogen bonds in an uneven way, kicking off the spinning motion.

The team also found that the rotation only ever goes in one direction, and starts when relative humidity hits about 70 percent. While the scientists aren’t yet sure why the spider needs fibers that twist when wet, there are plenty of useful applications in robotics or other devices.

“Silk’s unique propensity to undergo supercontraction and exhibit a torsional behavior in response to external triggers such as humidity can be exploited to design responsive silk-based materials that can be precisely tuned at the nanoscale,” says Anna Tarakanova, an author of the study. “Potential applications are diverse: from humidity-driven soft robots and sensors, to smart textiles and green energy generators.”

Spider silk’s strange reaction to moisture could lead to better artificial muscles [New Atlas]

Our ability to throw a ball, walk down a sidewalk, or talk without mumbling is in part because of proprioception, the ability for us to intuitively know where our feet are, how our hands our moving, and what the mouth is doing. Without proprioception, we’d have to look down at our feet on every step to make sure everything is going well. Users of prosthetic devices face this issue every day, but researchers at  École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, EPFL, the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa and the A. Gemelli University Polyclinic in Rome, have now come up with a way to give prostheses the ability to relay their position to the user, as well as provide the important sense of touch.

Amputees outfitted with a new prosthetic arm are able to identify the shape, size, and other basic features of objects they’re only allowed to touch with the device. The device works by electrically stimulating nerves left over in the patient’s stump, which carry information to the brain and recreate the necessary sensations. This is done using implanted electrodes that are able to carefully stimulate the target nerves.

“Our study shows that sensory substitution based on intraneural stimulation can deliver both position feedback and tactile feedback simultaneously and in real time,” said Silvestro Micera, one of the leaders of the research. “The brain has no problem combining this information, and patients can process both types in real time with excellent results.”

A good deal of training is still necessary for patients to learn how to interpret the signals and to adjust to the arm. Nevertheless, the two people that went through the training using the new device were able to accurately feel the nature of objects about three quarters of the time.

Prosthetic with Sense of Touch Lets Patients Know Its Location [Medgadget]

How many fad diets, fancy workouts and health trends have you tried over the years? Before you try the latest craze (celery juice, anyone?), maybe you should check in with your DNA. Vitagene DNA Ancestry Test Kit & Personal Genetic Reports gives you actionable health plans based on your DNA for $69.

Workouts and diets are not one size fits all — an individual’s genetics play a big role in getting fit and healthy. Vitagene will help you develop your own personalized plan to meet your goals. Just swab your cheek and send it off and Vitagene will help you become the master of your body by supplying you with actionable health plans.

Vitagene will help you learn what supplements to take, which workouts will be best for your body and what you should be eating. You’ll receive customized meal plans, tailored macronutrient percentages, gluten sensitivity information and more. And aside from helping you run your body, you’ll also be learning about your global ancestry.

This Cool Service Gives You A Health Plan Based On Your DNA [New Atlas]

For people with type 2 diabetes, regular insulin injections are a part of everyday life, but that’s not the most comfortable routine. Plenty of work has gone into developing an insulin pill as a less invasive alternative, but that comes with its own challenges. Now, an MIT team has created a new design for a capsule that houses a microneedle made of insulin, which injects the hormone through the stomach lining.

Delivering insulin orally might sound simple enough, given how common pills are for many medicines. But the stomach is a hostile environment, and the harsh acids there can neutralize many drug compounds before they can get to work. Unsurprisingly, much of the work in developing insulin pills has gone into protective coatings that help it survive the journey until it can deliver the insulin payload.

But the MIT researchers have taken a different approach. A few years ago the team created a pill coated in tiny needles, which injected medicine into the intestinal lining as it passed through. Now the design has been refined so it only has one needle, which injects the drug into the wall of the stomach.

The new capsule is roughly the size of a blueberry and is made of a biodegradable polymer. The mechanical components inside are quite complex: There’s a microneedle made of freeze-dried insulin, and a stainless steel spring coiled up and held back by a disk made of sugar. When the sugar dissolves in the stomach acid, the spring flicks out and pushes the microneedle into the stomach lining.

Once the tip of the needle is inserted, the insulin dissolves into the bloodstream at a consistent rate – in this test that took about an hour, but the rate can be tweaked by the researchers. After the payload has been delivered, the capsule then passes through the digestive system harmlessly.

To make sure the needle comes in contact with the stomach wall and stays there, the capsule has a high, steep dome so it will always roll and come to rest on the flat side, where the needle pops out from. This design, the team says, was inspired by the leopard tortoise, which has a similar-shaped shell that lets it get back on its feet if it ever finds itself on its back.

The team tested the capsule in pigs, and found that it was effective at delivering up to 5 milligrams of insulin into the animals’ bloodstreams. This is on a level comparable to the amount in a regular insulin shot.

The researchers say the tests show that the method could be an effective alternative to self-injections for insulin, as well as other treatments delivered the same way.

“We are really hopeful that this new type of capsule could someday help diabetic patients and perhaps anyone who requires therapies that can now only be given by injection or infusion,” says Robert Langer, senior author of the study.

As promising as the capsule seems, it’s far from the only method in development. Other oral insulin delivery systems are in the works, including a pill from Oramed that is currently in Phase 2b trials. If that works, its relative simplicity compared to the MIT capsule could see it being favored. Either way, it looks like the daily insulin injection is on its way out.

imec, a research and innovation hub for nanoelectronics and digital technologies, has announced a hydrogel-based smart contact lens that incorporates a silicon microchip, integrated LED light, and radiofrequency (RF) antenna for wireless energy transfer. Belgium-based imec claims that the new lens paves the way for integrated sensors or drug delivery capabilities, whereby a contact lens could continuously monitor for signs of ocular diseases, and even administer treatments.

Ghent University and SEED Co., a contact lens manufacturer based in Japan, collaborated with imec to develop the device. Designing flexible electronic components and seamlessly integrating them into a soft hydrogel lens were major challenges in creating the new device.

The lens needed to be oxygen-permeable, wrinkle-free, thin, and comfortable to wear, while maintaining electrical functionality. The researchers conducted significant optimization to achieve these properties.

The lens incorporates a blue LED light that is powered by a radiofrequency antenna. The antenna should also allow for any integrated sensors to transmit data to a handheld device for analysis. At present, the device represents a proof-of-concept, and imec hopes to expand its capabilities in the future.

Medgadget asked Prof. Herbert De Smet of Ghent University and imec, some questions about the system.

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us some background on this type of technology and the current state of the art.

Herbert De Smet: Globally, quite some effort has been spent on realizing so-called ‘smart contact lenses’ — contact lenses that contain electronics to increase the functionality of the lens in many possible ways. Most efforts have focused on hard lenses made of rigid gas permeable material or on soft lenses made of silicone, both of which are materials that are still relatively compatible with standard electronics integration technologies. However, we are one of the only groups in the world that has demonstrated the capability of integrating functional electronics in hydrogel-based soft contact lenses.

Medgadget: What types of ocular diseases could a smart contact lens be useful for monitoring and treating?

Herbert De Smet: Smart contact lenses could offer adaptive optical correction for presbyopia patients. They can also offer a solution for people with iris deficiencies, such as aniridia or coloboma. As reported in our research, we have prepared the technological platform to integrate sensors that continuously or regularly monitor bodily parameters such as the concentration of certain substances in the tear fluid. The sensors can be powered and also read out wirelessly. Our partner, SEED, is presently assessing which parameter would be the most important for a first use case.

Smart Contact Lenses are Here: Interview with Prof. Herbert De Smet of Imec [Medgadget]

It was just a couple of months ago that L’Oréal announced My Skin Track UV, a wearable battery-free device that measures its user’s ultraviolet light exposure. Well, the company has now unveiled My Skin Track pH, a wearable that monitors the pH levels of its user’s skin.

According to L’Oréal, pH imbalances in the skin can produce inflammatory responses, which may in turn lead to or worsen conditions such as dryness, eczema, and atopic dermatitis. That’s where My Skin Track pH comes in.

Developed by L’Oréal’s La Roche-Posay skincare division in partnership with Epicore Biosystems, it takes the form of a thin-film sticker that is adhered to the skin of the user’s inner arm. Microfluidic channels within the device then draw in trace amounts of sweat. After five to 15 minutes, the pH content of that sweat causes two dots on top of the device to change color.

Utilizing their smartphone’s camera, users proceed to take a photo of those dots. An accompanying app analyzes their color, and from that deduces the skin’s pH levels. If those levels are out of whack, the app advises users on what action to take.

And in case you’re wondering about just pressing a strip of pH paper against your skin to get the same results, we asked – it turns out that quite a large amount of sweat would be required, and even then the reading wouldn’t be very accurate.

Plans call for My Skin Track pH to be trialled through select US La Roche-Posay dermatologists, with an eye towards releasing a direct-to-consumer product late this year.

Microfluidic sticker measures skin’s pH levels [New Atlas]

When someone has had blood vessel surgery, it’s important for doctors to check that the vessel doesn’t become blocked as it heals. Such blockages could someday be detected earlier and more easily than ever, thanks to an experimental new biodegradable blood flow sensor.

Developed at California’s Stanford University, the implantable device takes the form of a capacitive strip that’s wrapped around a blood vessel at one end, and that is attached to an antenna at the other.

As blood pulses through the vessel, it presses on the sensor’s inner surface, causing its shape to change. That shape-change alters the device’s capacity to store an electrical charge. Using an external device to wirelessly “ping” the antenna, doctors are able to read that capacity, and thus determine the rate at which blood is flowing. If the flow is starting to decrease, then action may need to be taken.

The sensor – which is based on technology previously developed for touch-sensitive robot skin – requires no battery, and harmlessly biodegrades after the vessel has healed. It has already been successfully tested on the artery of a live rat, that vessel obviously being much smaller and difficult to monitor than that of a human.

A smartphone or wearable device could likely serve as the external reader, although it’s also possible that an electronic sticker on the skin could be used. In any case, it should be possible to wirelessly transmit readings to the internet, so doctors could check on patients’ progress without requiring them to come into the office.

Bodybuilding, as its name pretty much implies, is all about gettin’ big muscles. And while a tape measure can be used to measure the growth of those muscles every now and then, XLFLEX is designed to motivate users by providing them with ongoing real-time measurements as they’re working out.

Developed by Texas-based startup Visual Gains, XLFLEX takes the form of a belt that is worn over the biceps, triceps, forearms, thighs or calves. While the user is pumping iron, a sensor in the sweat-proof device continually measures the changing circumference of that muscle. Measurement data (in a choice of inches or centimeters) is displayed on an integrated LCD screen, plus it’s transmitted by Bluetooth to an iOS/Android app on the user’s smartphone.

Depending on where the device is being worn, its LCD display can be electronically flipped over in order to appear rightside-up to the user. It can also be reversed, so it appears the right away around when viewed in a mirror, or it can simply be blanked out in order to keep prying eyes from seeing its numbers.

The app, meanwhile, not only lets users track their progress over time, but also allows them to set size goals for different muscles – it alerts them when those goals are met. Additionally, it’s capable of monitoring multiple XLFLEX devices (worn on various parts of one user’s body) simultaneously.

It should be noted that the product is intended for users who are already pretty far along the bodybuilding road, as its minimum arm-circumference size is 12 inches (30.5 cm). It maxes out at 25 inches (63.5 cm).

If you’re interested, XLFLEX is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$135 will get you a single unit, assuming it reaches production. The planned retail price is $289.

XLFLEX measures muscles in real time [New Atlas]

Despite advances in malaria treatments over the past few decades, the disease still kills around half a million people globally every year. Finding a better way to diagnose the illness, and subsequently treat it early, is a major goal for scientists. A team of researchers just revealed an innovative new salvia test that promises to quickly and cheaply screen for the presence of malaria parasites up to a week before any symptoms appear.

The only way to confidently diagnose malaria currently is through blood testing, which requires laboratory infrastructures, and well-trained clinicians literally examining the samples using microscopes to detect levels of the parasite. More recently scientists have developed what are called antigen-based “rapid diagnostic tests” (RDTs), which take a skin prick of blood and offer a diagnostic assessment within 20 minutes. While RDTs are hugely helpful in remote areas without access to more comprehensive laboratory services, they are not completely reliable and still require invasive blood sampling.

There have been several recent advances in the way of breath and odor-based markers being used to detect malarial infections. The science is incredibly promising, however, translating these discoveries into a cheap and effective diagnostic tool has proven a little more challenging. Picking up these air-based malaria-signaling compounds with elaborate gas chromatography-mass spectrometry devices is one thing, developing sensitive and cost-effective biosensors that can do the same in remote clinical environments is something else altogether.

“What if we can identify a child before they get sick because there’s something in their saliva,” says Rhoel Dinglasan, a researcher working on the project from the University of Florida. “If we get to them earlier, they can be cured well before they get the disease.”

The new saliva-based malaria test homes in on a specific protein that is vital to the survival of a common malaria parasite called Plasmodium falciparum. The test can identify the presence of the parasite using this protein biomarker in less than 20 minutes after a person spits into a small test tube.

The test is called SMAART (Saliva-based Malaria Asymptomatic and Asexual Rapid Test) and it is being developed by a start-up founded in South Africa called ERADA. Benji Pretorius, ERADA’s Managing Director, hopes the test can be rolled out into clinical use as soon as 2020.

“The introduction of SMAART is going to play a major part in achieving effective diagnostic testing and surveillance; as well as prevention and treatment of this disease, and therefore will be a major catalyst in meeting the WHO’s 2030 target to reduce malaria incidence and mortality by 90 percent,” says Pretorius.

The new research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Motion sickness can be a debilitating condition for many people, preventing them from traveling and engaging in various activities such as sailing. There are a few drugs available to control motion sickness, but they have side effects such as drowsiness and for many people are simply a choice of choosing one discomfort over another.

A new device, developed by Otolith Labs, a company out of Washington, DC, may soon become a new, drug-free option for managing the symptoms of motion sickness.

The Otolith device consists of a vibrating gadget, attached to a headband, that is placed behind the ear. The vibrator works on the principle of bone conduction, that some hearing aids utilize, to stimulate the vestibular system. The signals that are delivered are essentially random white noise, the purpose of which seems to be to confuse the brain into ignoring motion signals altogether.

Motion sickness results from conflicting signals reaching the brain, the brain becoming confused as it can’t reconcile what the eyes and vestibular system are telling it. The Otolith device seems to disrupt the vestibular system’s signal so much that the brain automatically starts to disregard it completely, and the conflict between signals essentially disappears.

The technology is already proving itself in initial trials, but there’s a lot more work left to prove it in larger trials, as well as get a grasp on the actual underlying mechanism that it’s activating.

Electronic Headband for Drug-Free Motion Sickness Therapy [Medgadget]

A new smart clothing line promises to help you get your yoga moves right when you’re at home and without an instructor. It’s called Pivot Yoga and it claims to give feedback through small sensors on the clothes that can tell you whether you’re in the right position.

“We know how hard it is to learn yoga, how much yogis want to improve, and how many yogis want to practice at home,” Joe Chamdani, who’s the CEO and co-founder of TuringSense, the developer behind Pivot Yoga, said in a press release.

The Pivot Yoga clothes are supposed to “look, feel, breathe, wash, and perform” like regular yoga clothes, but also maintain a wireless connection to the company’s mobile app. You can take online yoga classes through the app and the sensors will insert a “live avatar” of your body into the video so you can easily compare your movements with the teacher’s.

The app has voice control capabilities so you’re supposed to be able to tell it to pause and start again. The app will say, “Garments detected,” and then you can command it to start by saying, “Begin.” You address the smartphone’s voice assistant by saying, “Pivot, how’s this look?” and the assistant will respond to correct your posture with lines like, “Move your right knee six inches.” You can also cast the app to an Apple TV, any compatible Chromecast device, a Samsung TV from 2013 or newer, or connect it directly via HDMI.

While the premise of the app and clothes sounds like it’d be a huge boon to yogis, it’s difficult to see how the sensors are able to give accurate readings of a body’s movements while the body is in motion. Pivot tells The Verge, “It’s a big challenge, since every yogi’s body is different, and a good question. We’ve designed the clothes so that sensor movement is relatively rare. And we’re designing the clothes and the entire system so that any remaining sensor movement is handled automatically.”

That seems to imply the clothes stay relatively still while a person is moving, which might not be the most comfortable fit, and definitely means that Pivot is constrained from offering a wide variety of sizes. (Indeed, the clothes are available in XS to XL, but there’s no sizing chart to indicate the precise ranges these sizes run.)

The clothes charge by Micro USB and run on 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi. They’re made of aluminum, leather, fabric, and plastic. There’s a non-replaceable battery that gives roughly five hours of continuous use, according to Pivot. You’re able to machine wash the clothes in cold water, but you cannot put them in the dryer.

Pivot costs $99 for the top and pants, and the online videos cost $19 per month. The app is only available on iOS 11 or higher for iPhone 7 and up, although the company says an Android version is “expected later.” Preorders are now available, and they’re currently only open to residents in the US and Canada. Pivot tells The Verge the clothes can be expected to ship in spring 2019.