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Stroke Victims Could Get Laser Treatment

Protothera A company called PhotoThera is testing a laser-based treatment for stroke victims that's designed to stimulate the brain, and help patients recover faster.

The device directs an infrared beam through the scalp, towards several different target areas in the brain. The treatment is supposed to be administered 24 hours after the onset of symptoms, and is believed to promote metabolism in the areas of the brain that receive the infrared tanning session.

So, does it work? We should find out before too long, as PhotoThera is in the midst of a large double-blind clinical trial.—Gregory Mone

Via MedGadget

New Dectector Finds Rare Tumor Cells

Chip A new microchip-based device that can discover and analyze circulating tumor cells, or CTCs, in a blood sample, could prove to be a valuable new tool for fighting cancer. CTCs, which originate in solid tumors, can be found in the bloodstream, but not too often. For every billion normal cells, you might only find one CTC.

Now scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, reporting in the journal Nature, say they've developed a nanofluidics-based device that can monitor how a patient is responding to a given cancer treatment by studying these tiny indicator cells. The technology may also help with early detection.—Gregory Mone

Via Science Daily

(Image credit: MGH BioMEMS Resource Center)

Robots in The Gym

Strokerobot3enlarged Before they start mixing us drinks and folding our laundry, robots are going to do some seriously important work, like helping stroke victims.

Rice university engineers are launching a two-year program to test a new joystick-based device designed to help stroke victims recover faster. Patients use the joystick to try to move objects around on a screen, and the joystick pushes back when the patients err. The technology effectively tries to get things back in sync, teaching the hand to do what the brain is asking of it.

Several other labs are using robots for stroke-rehab, too, including an ankle-focused device like the one picture here. One MIT scientist envisions an entire gym stocked with robo-assistants.-Gregory Mone

(Image credit: MIT / L. Barry Hetherington)

Making HGH Injections Easier

Serono A new electronic device designed to simplify the growth hormone injection process has just been approved by the FDA. Patients who suffer from growth hormone deficiency give themselves the daily injections, but jabbing yourself with an old-fashioned needle every night isn't all that fun. Nor is measuring out the right dose.

The easypod growth hormone delivery device sets the dose, allows doctors to track whether their patients are keeping to the prescribed schedule, and makes the actual injection a bit easier to deal with.

Now, as for whether doctors should really be prescribing growth hormone to kids in the first place, that's another issue. Read former PopSci editor Jenny's Everett's story on the subject here.—Gregory Mone

Via MedGadget

Positive Results for Magnetic Stimulation

R_tms Maybe it's not pseudoscience after all. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a technique that stimulates brain activity through externally-delivered magnetic pulses, has been alternately hailed and written-off for years, showing promise in some studies while proving ineffective in others.

Lately, though, scientists at several major universities have been saying that the technology is finally refined enough to start making a difference, and a new study to be published in Biological Psychiatry suggests they might be right. In a multi-center trial, 301 medication-free but severely depressed patients received either real or sham TMS for 4-6 weeks. The researchers report that side effects were minimal, and TMS proved to be an effective treatment—with the real TMS proving significantly more effective than the placebo version.—Gregory Mone

Smarter Insoles to Help Diabetics

Zephyr_shoepod_whole The Shoepod Diabetic could prevent tens of thousands of foot amputations a year, according to its developer. The insert, which uses smart fabric technology from a New Zealand company, Zephyr, constantly monitors the temperature across the foot, stores that data, analyzes it for certain patterns and can transmit it wirelessly. By monitoring changes in temperature, the Shoepod should be able to pick up the early warning signs of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, which effects sensation in the limbs. The big problem with this disorder: If people incur an injury to their foot, they might not feel pain, and an ulcer can develop. If left untreated, an infection can develop, spread, and eventually require amputation. Trials are starting in the US soon.—Gregory Mone

Via The Engineer

Scientists Fry Cancer Cells With Nanotubes

Nanotube Scientists conducting pre-clinical trials have shown that tiny nanotubes, heated up with radio waves, can destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy cells relatively unharmed. The tests, performed in rabbits, showed that the radio-nanotube technique fries the cancer completely, and without side effects.

The next trick, according to the group, is figuring out how to deliver those nanotubes to the right spot. They need to ensure that they attach to tumor cells, and not the healthy kind. The scientists suggest that clinical trials of the technique, a continuation of work begun by nanotech pioneer Richard Smalley before his 2005 death, are at least three years away.—Gregory Mone

Nanodiamonds Delivering Drugs

Nanodiamonds Granted, they might not be as pretty as their much larger counterparts, but unlike their bold and sparkling brethren, the tiny particles known as nanodiamonds might actually end up doing some good in the world.

Scientists at Northwestern University have demonstrated that these relatively new nanomaterials can shuttle chemotherapy drugs to cells without producing the negative effects of today's delivery agents. Clusters of the nanodiamonds surrounding the drugs block them off from healthy cells, preventing unnecessary damage, and then release them upon reaching the intended targets. Just as important, the leftover diamonds, hundreds of thousands of which could cram onto the eye of a needle, don't induce inflammation in cells once they've done their job. The study, the first to demonstrate the usefulness of the material in biomedicine, is published online in Nano Letters.—Gregory Mone

Faulty Component in Heart Implant Device

Sprint_fidelis Medtronic, the medical devices manufacturer, announced today that the malfunctioning of a key part of one of its heart defibrillation systems may have led to five patient deaths.

Normally the system, designed for patients at risk for cardiac arrest, delivers a jolt to reset the heart when it detects abnormal rhythms. The company found that in some cases, certain models of the leads that monitor the heart can fracture, leading to unnecessary shocks.

Medtronic is now asking doctors not to install these wires - the Sprint Fidelis model - any longer, but the company, along with the FDA, says that the estimated 268,000 patients who do have them in place do not need to have them removed. The risks associated with removing and replacing the leads are greater than those associated with leaving the potentially faulty wires in place. Instead, doctors can reprogram the system so that it will warn the patient if his or her leads go haywire. Think that's making any of those patients feel better? Me neither.—Gregory Mone

iPods and Pacemakers

Ipod1 Westby Fisher, a Northwestern University cardiologist and blogger, rips into the American Heart Association after a patient left a page from one of the AHA's publications on his desk.

The page in question (left) reviews a study that looked into whether or not iPods effect pacemaker function. Apparently the music players showed some effect, but none of the patients tested experienced any symptoms. Fisher calls this sort of cursory review fear-mongering on the AHA's part.—Gregory Mone

Via MedGadget

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