It is crucial that children with speech and language impairments receive ongoing speech therapy. Speech plays an important part in communicating basic needs and wants to others in their environment, and interacting with others in their community and life. Speech therapy can make an enormous difference in someone’s life and help build confidence. However, as the demand keeps growing, there are fewer speech therapists available. As a result, the price for therapy is increasing, and developing technology that can make the process more efficient while delivering quality care is of high importance.
The Latvian startup
is developing interactive games designed as early intervention for speech improvement and emotion expression stimulation. The interactive computer-guided system enable children with speech and language impairments to receive speech therapy from the comfort of their home. The platform is specially designed to engage and motivate children through its gamification approach, and use 3-D webcams to monitor facial muscles and tongue position and movement in real-time for immediate feedback. To complement the system, the startup has also developed a web platform that allow families to manage profiles and plans from any smart device, and help speech therapists track all their patients, their performance and visualize results.
The therapy process is a long-term commitment for everybody involved. Research shows that 30% of work done by speech therapists are oral motor speech exercises, which are repetitive, tedious and can be automated. CheeksUp has developed an innovative solution that allow therapists to remotely and quantitatively track the progress of patients, making the therapy process more efficient and reduce the cost by up to 30%.
Most importantly, the platform help accelerate therapy progress. Regularity of sessions is proven to be the most important factor in achieving results. CheeksUp ensure that children can perform therapy exercises at the therapist's office, as well as home,
and keeps users engaged and motivated with gamification elements and incentives for an exciting user experience. Intensive and boring therapy routines are made relevant and effective, making treatment fun. It can increase access to treatment, help children communicate, build confidence and improve quality of life for both children and their families. In addition, the system can be used in myotherapy and physiotherapy, highlight the huge potential of the startup and how their technology can help people around the world.
CheeksUp was founded in 2015 and has previously been part of
, a Rockville-based startup incubator focused on health technology, and won
Start Tel Aviv 2016
, a global competition that brings together startups from 31 different countries. In 2017, the startup has been selected as a finalist of
, a Finnish health accelerator with a hand-picked international team of over 200 mentors.
An analysis of a patient’s deadly brain tumor helped doctors at Smilow Cancer Hospital identify new emerging mutations and keep a 55-year old woman alive for more than five years, researchers report in the journal
The median survival rate for patients with glioblastoma multiform (GBM) is only 15 months, but three separate genomic analyses of the tumor identified new mutations that allowed doctors to adjust treatment and keep the patient alive for over five years, through two recurrences of the cancer.
“We were able to identify the molecular profile at each recurrence,” said Dr. Murat Günel, chair and the Nixdorff-German Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, researcher with Yale Cancer Center, and senior author of the paper. “The molecular make-up of the cancer changed after each treatment and with time, but we were able to adjust treatments based on those profiles.”
For instance, the last genomic analysis revealed mutations of the cancer — under selective pressure from targeted therapies — had increased 30-fold, making the patient a good candidate for immunotherapy. Although there was an initial response, the cancer ultimately progressed.
The researchers were able to extend the findings on this case to more than 100 other GBM cases, leading to the observation that most GBMs change their genomic profile during therapy. “These findings have significant implications for precision treatment of these tumors” said Dr. Zeynep Erson Omay, the first author of the study and a research scientist in neurosurgery. “We now do a genetic analysis on every glioma surgically removed at Smilow Cancer Hospital during each recurrence or progression, comparing the molecular genomic profile to the original cancer to make treatment decisions.”
With new drugs available, there is hope that “we will soon start to see real changes in patient outcomes,” Gunel said.
Other Yale authors included Dr. Octavian Henegariu, Dr. S. Bülent Omay,
Dr. Akdes Serin Harmancı, Mark W. Youngblood, Dr. Ketu Mishra-Gorur,Dr. Jie Li, Dr. Victoria E. Clark, , Dr. Alexander O. Vortmeyer, Dr. Kaya Bilguvar, Dr. Katsuhito Yasuno, Dr. Joachim Baehring, and Dr. Jennifer Moliterno. The study was performed in collaboration with clinicians at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY.
The study was funded by the Gregory Kiez and Mehmet Kutman Foundation.
Credit: Joan Costa / CSIC Communication
Researchers from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) have developed a biosensor that can detect type 1 HIV during the first week after infection. The experiments, performed on human serum, detect the p24 antigen, a protein present in the HIV-1 virus. This new technology detects the protein at concentrations 100,000 times lower than current techniques, and the total test time is 4 hours, 45 minutes, meaning clinical results could be obtained on the same day. The research is published in the journal
The biosensor combines micromechanical silicon structures with gold nanoparticles, both functionalised with p24-specific antibodies. At the end of the immunoassay procedure, p24 is sandwiched between the gold nanoparticles and the micromechanical silicon structures. The gold nanoparticles have optical resonances known as plasmons. These are capable of scattering light very efficiently and have become one of the structures to attract most interest in the field of optics over the last decade. Micromechanical structures are excellent mechanical sensors capable of detecting interactions as small as intermolecular forces. The combination of these two structures produces both mechanical and optical signals which amplify one another, producing remarkable sensitivity, to detect the p24.
The technology, which has been patented by CSIC, is also being applied in the early detection of certain types of cancer.
"The chip itself, the physical part, is identical for HIV tests and for cancer biomarker tests. What changes is the chemical part - the solution we apply - so that it reacts accordingly to what we are looking for. That's why our fundamental work is focused on developing applications for this new technology", CSIC researcher Javier Tamayo, who works at the Institute of Microelectronics in Madrid, points out.
"The biosensor uses structures which are manufactured using well-established microelectronics technology, thus making large scale, low cost production possible. This, combined with its simplicity, could make it a great choice for use in developing countries", notes Tamayo.
How the biosensor works
Picture showing the biosensor, which is able to detect
type 1 HIV during the first week after infection.
Credit: Joan Costa / CSIC Communication
The experiment begins by incubating one millilitre of human serum on the sensor for one hour at 37 °C to allow binding of any existing HIV-1 p24 antigens to the capture antibodies located on the sensor's surface. Next, it is re-incubated at 37 °C, though in this case with gold nanoparticles, for 15 minutes so the captured p24 proteins can be marked.
Finally, the resulting material is rinsed to remove any unbound particles. "The test takes a total of 4 hours 45 minutes, which is really rapid. In fact, to confirm the diagnosis you could even repeat the test and the clinical results could be back on the same day as the medical examination. The results are statistically significant and could be adapted to medical requirements", explains the CSIC researcher.
HIV detection systems
Acute human immunodeficiency virus infection is defined as the time from virus acquisition to seroconversion, i.e. the onset of detectable antibodies to HIV in the blood. Today there are two ways to detect HIV in the blood. Firstly, infection can be diagnosed by detecting viral RNA in the blood using nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT), and secondly by detecting p24 protein with fourth generation immunoassays.
The first method, based on detecting viral RNA in the blood, has a detection limit of 20 to 35 copies of RNA per millilitre, i.e. a concentration typically occurring two weeks after HIV acquisition. In the second method, during the fourth generation immunoassays, a detection threshold of p24 in 10 picograms per millilitre is reached. This occurs approximately three to four weeks after infection.
"This new technology is capable of detecting p24 at concentrations up to 100,000 times lower than the previous generation of approved immunoassays methods and 100 times lower than methods for detecting viral RNA in blood. This reduces the undetectable phase after infection to just one week", says CSIC researcher Priscila Kosaka from Madrid's Institute of Microelectronics.
Detecting HIV in blood
The period between infection and seroconversion is approximately four weeks. The early detection of HIV is crucial to improving a person's health. Progressive changes occur after HIV acquisition, such as irreversible depletion of gut CD4 lymphocytes, replication in the central nervous system, and the establishment of latent HIV reservoirs.
"The potential for HIV infectivity in the first stage of infection is much higher than in the later stages. Therefore, initiating antiretroviral therapy prior to seroconversion improves immune control and has been associated with benefits in CD4 cell count, a reduction in systemic inflammation, the preservation of cognitive function, and a reduction of the latent reservoir. Logically, its detection is critical to the prevention of HIV transmission", explains Kosaka.
Patented by CSIC, this technology has been licensed to the Mecwins company (a CSIC spin-off) created in 2008 by Javier Tamayo and Montserrat Calleja, and current owner of three patents which represent the fruit of the CSIC researchers' labour. This recent research has received funding from the Spanish Cancer Association.
Non-invasive delivery of biological drugs and vaccines remains a major challenge in healthcare, especially in developing countries where the often warm conditions can degrade the pharmaceuticals. Patients with chronic conditions are particularly vulnerable, and would greatly benefit from administration via alternative routes than currently possible. Non-invasive delivery could increase compliance rates and convenience to patients, while assuring dosing accuracy, a concern with subcutaneous administration.
Multiple companies are trying to find a solution to non-invasive delivery, particularly in diabetes management. They all have different solutions, ranging from dermal patches with microneedles, intra-nasal delivery systems to oral drugs using different kinds of formulation technologies. The Swiss startup
is trying a different approach. While most companies rely on advanced chemical excipients, BioLingus has been inspired by the nature. Seeds of plants contain high concentrations of proteins, and have to survive and remain intact for years, often in extreme conditions of temperature, moisture and drought. Using advanced bio-engineering, the startup is mimicking these mechanisms seen in plants to stabilize biological molecules at room temperature.
Using their cutting-edge technology, BioLingus is developing oral and mucosal delivery of peptides and proteins for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and inflammatory diseases, and immune-therapies, for instance in cancer, auto-immune diseases and development of oral vaccines. Their pipeline include a wide range of products, including an oral version of the diabetes drug Exenatide, and oral vaccines for influenza and for the treatment of leishmaniasis, a much-neglected tropical disease. They are also exploring the use of IL-2 for early onset juvenile type 1 diabetes, as well as multiple allergies and rheumatoid arthritis, which has shown promising results in animal models.
Their technology creates the potential to change the way we deliver biological molecules in pharmaceuticals, and have multiple benefits over current more invasive methods. Its ease of administration could radically improve quality of life for patients who are dependent on daily self-injections, reducing the risk of infections due to needle handling. It offer a safer and more stable delivery of vaccines, particularly in developing countries without a stable infrastructure. In fact, BioLingus aim to broaden access to medicine to the developing world. Their technology enable storage of medications in room temperature, unlike injection solutions that must be refrigerated, reducing the need for a cold chain. And although hi-tech, the technology is relatively low-cost, making it more cost-effective.
The startup has developed a unique, proprietary technology, allowing for different types of innovations to happen in parallel, whether it is incremental, social or disruptive innovation. The technology is applicable to the treatment of a wide variety of diseases, from chronic to neglected tropical diseases, and can greatly improve health outcomes and quality of life for millions around the world.
BioLingus has been widely praised by the WHO, and the startup announced in September, 2016 that they had entered a co-marketing agreement with
. The startup has won multiple awards, including the ‘Most Innovative Biotech Company’ in 2016 from the
European CEO Magazine
, as well as the 2016 ‘Best Delivery System Award’ from the
Global Health & Packaging magazine
. They have also won the ‘Gamechanger Award’ and ‘European Biotech Award’ 2016 from the
annual award programs, recognizing organizations and individuals that have achieved outstanding commercial success.
The first 30 days following a procedure has been identified as a major focus area in health care. A majority of complications develop during this time period, resulting in many unexpected visits to the emergency department and re-admission to the hospital, costing billions of dollars annually. As hospitals face increased financial pressure, initiatives such as expedited discharge and fast-tracking programs require new solutions that help monitor and maintain quality of care while patients recover at home.
The London-based startup
is building a communications bridge between doctors and patients with the aim to make the post-procedure process more efficient. They have developed a messaging platform that proactively communicates with patients, enabling doctors to receive patient responses to treatment and easily track the recovery progress. The solutions starts with the practice entering patients details into the web application, selecting the relevant procedure to be performed. On the day of the procedure and for the duration of their recovery, the patient receives check-in text messages or emails with instructions and questions regarding their recovery. FollowApp.Care monitors the patient’s recovery and notifies the clinic and doctor of potential complications before they occur, allowing doctors to take action and reduce unnecessary visits and readmissions.
The innovative technology enable patients to respond to questions specifically tailored to their procedures, and is available on whatever device they feel most comfortable communicating in. This drive positive customer experience, and can have tremendous effect on patient engagement. In addition, patient responses can be seen anytime from anywhere, allowing doctors to intervene and take action if necessary.
This enable doctors and clinics to save time and money by responding to complications more efficiently, and allow reallocation of resources to patients who require immediate care. It could even help reduce readmissions, which currently cost the healthcare system billions of dollars every year.
Most important is its focus on the patient. The technology increase quality of care and reduce adverse outcomes, ultimately improving health outcomes and give peace of mind. Patients know they have access to their doctor with the push of a button if there are questions about their recovery process, potentially reducing the uncertainties and anxiety that many feel after being discharged.
FollowApp.Care was founded in December 2014, and was awarded a place at the
program in 2015, a workshop developed and run by the
at Saïd Business School, Oxford to help accelerate the startup process.
Already in September, 2015 the startup got their first paying customers, and are today used across the US, UK and Australia.
Diagram showing differences that can be observed in cell
morphology in normal skin cells versus melanomas. Pink
images show differences following biopsy and staining by
a pathologist. Green slices show differences in fluorescence
pattern of mitochondria using multiphoton microscopy.
Credit: Irene Georgakoudi, Tufts University.
Researchers funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering have developed a non-invasive imaging technique that accurately detects skin cancer without surgical biopsy. Multiphoton microscopy of mitochondria—small organelles that produce energy in cells—accurately identified melanomas and basal cell carcinomas by detecting abnormal clusters of mitochondria in both types of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and most types of skin cancer are highly treatable, especially if detected early. “The technology developed here has the potential to make the detection of skin cancers extremely rapid and feasible at very early stages,” says Behrouz Shabestari, Ph.D., director of the NIBIB Program in Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy. “Rather than taking a biopsy sample that must be processed and then examined under a microscope by a pathologist, this system involves simply looking through the microscope at the patient’s skin and determining whether it is cancerous or not, within minutes.”
A group of international collaborators led by co-senior author Irene Georgakoudi, Ph.D., in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts, found that mitochondria behave very differently in healthy versus cancerous tissue. They used a laser microscopy technique that takes advantage of the characteristics of a key molecule in mitochondria, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), that is central to energy production. They found that NADH, which naturally fluoresces without injecting any dye or contrast agent into the individuals being screened, can be detected using multiphoton microscopy to provide diagnostically useful information about the organization of the mitochondria in skin cells.
“The system allows us to obtain very high-resolution images of individual cells without having to slice the tissue physically,” explained Georgakoudi. “With this technique, we found that in normal cells the mitochondria are spread throughout the cell in a web-like pattern. Conversely, cancerous skin cells show a very different pattern with the mitochondria found in clumps or clusters typically at the center of the cell along the border of the nucleus.”
Web-like arrangement of mitochondria in normal cells on
the left contrasts sharply with the clustered mitochondria
surrounding the cell nucleus in cancer cells on the right.
Credit: Irene Georgakoudi, Tufts, University
In this study the technique was tested in 10 patients with skin cancer (melanoma or basal carcinoma) and four who did not have skin cancer. The imaging technique results were compared to the traditional biopsy results obtained from each patient. The results demonstrated that the imaging technique correctly identified skin cancer in all 10 cancer patients, and made no false diagnoses in the four individuals without skin cancer.
Georgakoudi estimates that this test could be routinely used in doctor’s offices within five years, although the $100,000 price tag for the laser used in this microscope could limit the medical facilities that would be able to make such an investment. “Less-expensive lasers are on the horizon,” concludes Georgakoudi. “However, this approach would enable a doctor to make a quick diagnosis and begin treatment immediately, which could ultimately lower health care costs associated with these very common cancers.”
The research was published in the November 2016 issue of
Science Translational Medicine
This reusable, multi-layered and microfluidic device
incorporates a porous growth substrate, with a physiological
fluid flow, and the passive filtration of the capillaries
around the end of a kidney, called the glomerulus, where
waste is filtered from blood. (Credit: Gretchen Mahler)
Instead of running tests on live kidneys, researchers at Binghamton, University State University of New York have developed a model kidney for working out the kinks in medicines and treatments. Their research has been published by
Developed by Assistant Professor Gretchen Mahler and Binghamton biomedical engineering alumna Courtney Sakolish PhD '16, the reusable, multi-layered and microfluidic device incorporates a porous growth substrate, with a physiological fluid flow, and the passive filtration of the capillaries around the end of a kidney, called the glomerulus, where waste is filtered from blood.
"This is a unique platform to study interactions between drugs and cells or tissues, specifically in the kidney, where current models were lacking," said Sakolish. "These platforms will, hopefully, in the future, be used as an animal alternative during pre-clinical testing to more accurately direct these studies toward successful results in humans."'
"This is tissue engineering, but not for the purpose or replacing an organ or tissue in a person," said Mahler. "The idea is that we can recreate the major organ functions in a simplified way for use as a drug screening tool. Finding new drugs is very hard, expensive and inefficient. We hope that by using human cells in a physiological environment we can help to direct resources toward the most promising new drug candidates and determine that other new drug candidates will fail, faster."
Results suggest that cells grown in the device exhibit more natural behaviors than when grown in traditional culturing methods, and the filtration by the glomerulus is necessary for healthy cell function.
"We found that the more complex, dynamic culturing conditions (like those used in this project) are necessary to accurately predict renal drug toxicity in human systems," said Sakolish. "When we compared physiological renal function and drug toxicity in traditional static culturing against our new model, we found significant differences in the ways that cells behaved. In our platform, cells looked and acted like those that you would find in the body, showing more sensitive responses to drugs than traditional static culturing."
Mahler said that while others have developed microfluidic models of the proximal tubule before, this is the first to offer glomerular filtration.
"This type of device uses human cells in a dynamic, more physiologic environment, potentially making it better at predicting the body's response to drugs than animals (animal effectiveness studies often don't translate to humans) or static cell cultures, which are the most commonly used preclinical screening tools," said Mahler.
Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy condition marked by high blood pressure and elevated protein in the urine, leading to restricted blood supply to the fetus. Every year, between 70,000 and 80,000 women and in excess of half a million newborns die as a direct result of preeclampsia. While the only treatment, once diagnosed, is the delivery of the baby prematurely, identifying mothers at risk is the first step to effective intervention and prevention. Although there is no cost effective or reliable screening test for preeclampsia, prenatal consultations check for early signs of hypertension and proteinuria. However, the standard intervals between prenatal visits may delay diagnosis, increasing the chance of severe complications.
The Cork, Ireland-based startup
is determined to deliver a breakthrough technology to provide predictive diagnosis of preeclampsia in early pregnancy. They develop a blood test, called PrePsia, to be administered 15 weeks into a pregnancy, which can accurately predict the risk the woman have of developing preeclampsia later in their pregnancy. The test measure a combination of metabolites, which along with certain clinical data are fed into a classification algorithm. The algorithm extrapolates the results, allowing clinicians to offer targeted surveillance and medical care to patients who are at higher risk of developing the condition.
The technology is of enormous global significance with an estimated 10 million women develop preeclampsia each year around the world. The majority of deaths are avoidable through timely and effective care, and Metabolomic Diagnostics has developed a revolutionary test that help identify women at risk early in the pregnancy. This could transform the lives of millions around the world, and help save thousands of women and children who every year die of the condition. PrePsia could dramatically improve patient outcomes, and reduce the lifelong health complications that survivors live with. In addition, the cost of prenatal care associated with preeclampsia is over $7 billion in the US alone. Identifying women at risk could significantly lower these costs, while help offer targeted preventative care.
In contrast to other technologies, such as the detection of angiogenic factors, PrePsia works in early pregnancy at a time point when risk stratification would be most beneficial for ongoing management and intervention. In addition, their technology has high sensitivity and specificity for distinguishing between preeclampsia and other maternal disorders. While initial work has focused on preeclampsia, it could also be used to screen for a range of complications of pregnancy, highlighting its wide applicability and huge potential.
Metabolomic Diagnostics has previously won the Enterprise Ireland Life Sciences & Food Commercialisation Award for their development and commercialization of PrePsia, and has been awarded research funding from the European Union. The startup has also secured over $4 million in multiple funding rounds, with investors including
AIB Seed Capital Fund
, as well as a number of private investors.
Medulloblastoma is the most common pediatric malignant brain tumor. Current treatments consists of surgically removing as much of the tumor as possible, followed by craniospinal radiation and chemotherapy in children older than 3 years. Although treatment improves survival, the regimens are highly toxic to the developing brain and associated with significant morbidity. While up to 90% survive after 5 years if the disease has not spread, treatment often results in significant neurocognitive impairment in children younger than 8 years old.
The Belgium-based startup
is focused on developing innovative medicines for the treatment of pediatric brain tumors. Their first project, TB-403, is a therapeutic antibody being studied for the treatment of medulloblastoma. The drug candidate is based on research published in the
, highlighting for the first time that PIGF plays a vital role in the brain, and that its expression is required for the growth and spread of medulloblastoma. This relies on the binding of PIGF with the Neuropilin receptor on the tumor cell. Medulloblastoma cells induce the production of stromal PIGF and becomes a self-enforcing cycle. The research, conducted by Prof. Rakesh Jain from the Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard and the team of Prof. Peter Carmeliet from VIB/KU Leuven, also illustrated that blocking PIGF signaling resulted in tumor regression and improved survival. TB-403 binds to PIGF, blocking its binding with Neuropilin, subsequently suppressing the tumor growth.
TB-403 has been granted orphan drug designation by the Eurpean Commission, and the drug candidate is currently in a Phase I/IIa clinical trial. Although still early, it has the opportunity to be the first targeted therapy for pediatric patients with medulloblastoma. It has the potential to improve outcomes and survival as a first-line treatment, as well as relapsed patients. While the current regimens often results in significant neurocognitive impairment, TB-403 could help avoid some of these detrimental effects and lead to better outcomes. This could translate into a long-lasting impact on these children’s lives, significantly improving their quality of lives and helping multiple families around the world. With PIGF and Neuropilin being overexpressed in other pediatric tumors, TB-403 may have additional applications, and the startup is looking at other scientifically novel therapeutics to extend their impact in pediatric oncology.
Oncurious NV was founded in 2015, with main shareholder being
, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing ophthalmic medicines, and
, a leading life sciences institute in Belgium. The startup has partnered with
, a pharmaceutical company focused on discovery and development of antibody-based drugs against cancer, to co-develop TB-403.
The FAST Disc, developed by Professor Yoon-Kyoung
Cho's research team can can accurately identify circulating
tumor cells (CTCs) in the bloodstrem. Credit: UNIST
New research, highlighted on the front cover of the January 2017 issue of the prestigious journal
, is describing a new technique that seperates circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from whole blood at a liquid-liquid interface.
In the study, UNIST Professor Yoon-Kyoung Cho, one of the group leaders at IBS Research Center for Soft and Living Matter (CSLM), reported a technique to capture 95% of CTCs in the blood within one minute using a stand-alone lab-on-a-disc system equipped with Fluid Assisted Separation Technology (FAST). In this work, inspired by antifouling membranes with liquid-filled pores in nature, clog-free, highly sensitive, selective, rapid, and label-free isolation of viable CTCs from whole blood without prior sample treatment is achieved.
Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs) are cells that have detached from a primary tumor and are carried by the bloodstream. Studies have shown that these individual cancer cells play an important role in the metastatic spread of cancer. Therefore, detecting CTCs in time can aid the early detection and monitoring of metastatic disease. However, a major setback is that the concentration of CTCs inside a blood sample is rather low. A blood volume of about 1 milliliter contains only dozens of CTCs, which makes it harder to detect. By contrast with the presence of billions of red blood cells and millions of white blood cells in the same amount of blood.
The conventional CTC detection requires complex preprocessing methods, as well as expensive blood samples. In addition, the method of using proteins on the surface of CTCs may reduce the accuracy of the test results. There was also a technique that filters CTCs, but there was a problem with clogging, which resulted in reduced separation efficiency.
"FAST Lab-on-a-Disk is able to separate cells smoothly and efficiently by using centrifugal force-based fluid control technology," says Minji Lim of Biomedical Engineering, a joint first author of the paper. She also emphasized that "the efficiency of separating blood cells and CTC is the highest level in the world".
Using the technique, the researchers performed blood tests of 142 patients with various cancers and 50 healthy people and tested CTC detection performance. In particular, CTC, which was isolated from the blood of patients with lung cancer, was able to identify the same genetic information as in histologic examination. It shows that this technology can be used for molecular diagnosis or customized medical treatment.
"This technology can be directly used by hospitals because it uses small equipment and is very simple to use," says Professor Cho. "This will enable early diagnosis of metastatic cancer as well as patient-tailored cancer treatment."
Credit: Cang Ye, Ph.D.
During Low Vision Awareness Month, the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is highlighting new technologies and tools in the works to help people living with low vision or blindness. The innovations aim to help people with vision loss more easily accomplish daily tasks, from navigating office buildings to crossing a street. Many of the innovations take advantage of computer vision, a technology that enables computers to recognize and interpret the complex assortment of images, objects and behaviors in the surrounding environment.
Low vision means that even with glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people find everyday tasks difficult to do. It can affect many aspects of life, from walking in crowded places to reading or preparing a meal, explained Cheri Wiggs, Ph.D., program director for low vision and blindness rehabilitation at the NEI. The tools needed to stay engaged in everyday activities vary based on the degree and type of vision loss. For example, glaucoma causes loss of peripheral vision, which can make walking or driving difficult. By contrast, age-related macular degeneration affects central vision, creating difficulty with tasks such as reading, she said.
Here’s a look at a few NEI-funded technologies under development that aim to lessen the impact of low vision and blindness.
Navigating indoors can be especially challenging for people with low vision or blindness. While existing GPS-based assistive devices can guide someone to a general location such as a building, GPS isn’t much help in finding specific rooms, said Cang Ye, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Ye has developed a co-robotic cane that provides feedback on a user’s surrounding environment.
Ye’s prototype cane has a computerized 3-D camera to “see” on behalf of the user. It also has a motorized roller tip that can propel the cane toward a desired location, allowing the user to follow the cane’s direction. Along the way, the user can speak into a microphone and a speech recognition system interprets verbal commands and guides the user via a wireless earpiece. The cane’s credit card-sized computer stores pre-loaded floor plans. However, Ye envisions being able to download floor plans via Wi-Fi upon entering a building. The computer analyzes 3-D information in real time and alerts the user of hallways and stairs. The cane gauges a person’s location in the building by measuring the camera’s movement using a computer vision method. That method extracts details from a current image captured by the camera and matches them with those from the previous image, thus determining the user’s location by comparing the progressively changing views, all relative to a starting point. In addition to receiving NEI support, Ye recently was awarded a grant from the NIH’s Coulter College Commercializing Innovation Program to explore commercialization of the robotic cane.
Robotic glove finds door handles, small objects
In the process of developing the co-robotic cane, Ye realized that closed doorways pose yet another challenge for people with low vision and blindness. “Finding the door knob or handle and getting the door open slows you way down,” he said. To help someone with low vision locate and grasp small objects more quickly, he designed a fingerless glove device.
On the back surface is a camera and a speech recognition system, enabling the user to give the glove voice commands such as “door handle,” “mug,” “bowl,” or “bottle of water.” The glove guides the user’s hand via tactile prompts to the desired object. “Guiding the person’s hand left or right is easy,” Ye said. “An actuator on the thumb’s surface takes care of that in a very intuitive and natural way.” Prompting a user to move his or her hand forward and backward, and getting a feel for how to grasp an object, is more challenging.
A fingerless glove uses a camera to detect small objects
such as door handles. Credit: Cang Ye, Ph.D.
Ye’s colleague Yantao Shen, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Reno, developed a novel hybrid tactile system that comprises an array of cylindrical pins that send either a mechanical or electrical stimulus. The electric stimulus provides an electrotactile sensation, meaning that it excites the nerves on the skin of the hand to simulate a sense of touch. Picture four cylindrical pins in alignment down the length of your index finger. One by one, starting with the pin closest to your finger tip, the pins pulse in a pattern indicating that the hand should move backward.
The reverse pattern indicates the need for forward motion. Meanwhile, a larger electrotactile system on the palm uses a series of cylindrical pins to create a 3-D representation of the object’s shape. For example, if your hand is approaching the handle of a mug, you would sense the handle’s shape in your palm so that you could adjust the position of your hand accordingly. As your hand moves toward the mug handle, any slight shifts in angle are noted by the camera and the tactile sensation on your palm reflects such changes.
Smartphone crosswalk app
Street crossings can be especially dangerous for people with low vision. James Coughlan, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute have developed a smartphone app that gives auditory prompts to help users identify the safest crossing location and stay within the crosswalk.
The app harnesses three technologies and triangulates them. A global positioning system (GPS) is used to pinpoint the intersection where a user is standing. Computer vision is then used to scan the area for crosswalks and walk lights. That information is integrated with a geographic information system (GIS) database containing a crowdsourced, detailed inventory about an intersection’s quirks, such as the presence of road construction or uneven pavement. The three technologies compensate for each other’s weaknesses. For example, while computer vision may lack the depth perception needed to detect a median in the center of the road, such local knowledge would be included in the GIS template. And while GPS can adequately localize the user to an intersection, it cannot identify on which corner a user is standing. Computer vision determines the corner, as well as where the user is in relation to the crosswalk, the status of the walk lights and traffic lights, and the presence of vehicles.
CamIO system helps explore objects in a natural way
Imagine a system that enables visually impaired biology students to explore a 3-D anatomical model of a heart by touching an area and hearing “aortic arch” in response. The same system could also be used to get an auditory readout of the display on a device such as a glucose monitor. The prototype system, designed with a low-cost camera connected to a laptop computer, can make physical objects – from 2-D maps to digital displays on microwaves – fully accessible to users with low vision or blindness.
The CamIO system consists of a laptop computer and
a camera and enables users to explore any 3-D or 2-D
object. By holding a finger on an object, users prompt
the system to provide audio feedback.
Credit: James Coughlan, Ph.D.
The CamIO (short for camera input-output), also under development by Coughlan, provides real-time audio feedback as the user explores an object in a natural way, turning it around and touching it. Holding a finger stationary on 3-D or 2-D objects, signals the system to provide an audible label of the location in question or an enhanced image on a laptop screen. CamIO was conceived by Joshua Miele, Ph.D, a blind scientist at Smith-Kettlewell who develops and evaluates novel sound/touch interfaces to help people with vision loss. Coughlan plans to develop a smartphone app version of CamIO. In the meantime, software for the laptop version will be available for free download. To watch a demonstration of the CamIO system, visit http://bit.ly/2CamIO.
High-powered prisms, periscopes for severe tunnel vision
People with retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma can lose most of their peripheral vision, making it challenging to walk in crowded places like airports or malls. People with severe peripheral field vision loss can have a residual central island of vision that’s as little as 1 to 2 percent of their full visual field. Eli Peli, O.D., of Schepens Eye Research Institute, Boston, has developed lenses constructed of many adjacent one-millimeter wide prisms that expand the visual field while preserving central vision. Peli designed a high-powered prism, called a multiplexing prism that expands one’s field of view by about 30 degrees. “That’s an improvement, but it’s not good enough,” explained Peli.
In a study, he and his colleagues mathematically modeled people walking in crowded places and found that the risk of collision is highest when other pedestrians are approaching from a 45-degree angle. To reach that degree of peripheral vision, he and his colleagues are employing a periscope-like concept. Periscopes, such as those used to see the ocean surface from a submarine, rely on a pair of parallel mirrors that shift an image, providing a view that would otherwise be out of sight. Applying a similar concept, but with non-parallel mirrors, Peli and colleagues have developed a prototype that achieves a 45-degree visual field. Their next step is to work with optical labs to manufacture a cosmetically acceptable prototype that can be mounted into a pair of glasses. “It would be ideal if we could design magnetic clip-ons spectacles that could be easily mounted and removed,” he said.
For more information about resources for living with low vision, visit
Over 100 million people worldwide need orthotics, including people who suffer from cerebral palsy, spina bifida, a variety of spinal injuries strokes and even side effects from chemotherapy. And the demand is increase by about 5% every year due to conditions like diabetes and obesity. The development of specialized orthotics for children can be especially frustrating for both the patient and their families. It require several fittings and can take months before they are ready. By the time the patient receive the new orthotic, they have often outgrown them. Meaning they will either have to make do with an ill-fitted product or start the process all over again.
The London-based startup
is determined to revolutionize the way orthotics services are delivered to families with disabled children. They are working with families and their afflicted children by using 3D scanning technology to create a biomechanical model of the child’s body, and subsequently 3D print a brace specifically designed to fit the child. The orthosis can be designed and produced within 48 hours, and delivered within 1 week of a person’s need globally. That is significantly faster than current technologies and systems, which can take several months.
The startup understand the uncertainty of getting an orthosis for your child, and has developed a subscription model that take care of all orthotic needs for 1 year. The all-inclusive package include assessment by experts and a lightweight, 3D printed orthoses and a flexible payment plan. If the orthosis breaks, or the child grows out of it during the year, Andiamo will replace it, showing they truly understand the frustration families go through of not knowing if the orthosis fit or how much it will cost.
Andiamo was founded by Naveed and Samiya Parvez after their son Diamo, who suffered from cerebral palsy, passed away. Throughout his short life, he underwent several fittings for specialized orthotics, but often found he had outgrown them once they arrived. Their lives revolved around when the next orthotic appointment was, and whether or not they would get it right this time, an everyday life filled with much frustration and dejection, and impairing their son’s quality of life.
Driven by the want to help relieve families of the suffering they themselves went through, Naveed and Samiya Parvez have developed an inspiring and innovative use of 3D scanning and printing. Andiamo and their service could change the lives of children and parents everywhere in need of orthoses, finally putting the patient in focus. It will significantly reduce wait times from months to days, leading to better outcomes. It has the potential to help make daily routines easier for many children around the world, significantly improving their quality of life.
The startup has previously had a successful
, and has won multiple awards and grants. They have been celebrated among the
Nominet Trust 100
, bringing together 100 of the world’s most inspiring examples of social innovation, and won the
“Trailblazing Newcomer 2016”,
Global Talent Unleashed
“One to Watch 2016” award, and the
Big Venture Challenge
. They have also received a £15,000 investment from
Bethnal Green Ventures
, won the Social Impact award by
, and placed in
Tech All Stars’
top 12 European startups. Andiamo has so far prototyped the service with a few families in the UK, and in the next few years plan to take the service worldwide.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and if diagnosed at an early stage, the cancer is more likely to be treated successfully. In fact, more than 90% of women diagnosed at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least 5 years, compared to only 15% when diagnosed at the most advanced stage. Screening programs are important to discover the cancer at an early stage, but although mammograms, the current gold standard, are proven effective, it has limitations. It is not only uncomfortable, but can be difficult to interpret in younger women. In addition, the accuracy of the procedure is dependent on the technique used, experience and skill of the radiologist, and may provide false-negative or false-positive results.
The Springdale, Arkansas-based startup
commercialize disruptive diagnostic technologies that aid in the diagnosis of diseases affecting women and children. Their first product, Melody, is based on a discovery made by Suzanne Klimberg, who found that breast cancer proteins are detectable in tears. The discovery led her to co-invent a process and device which can detect breast cancer in women by collecting their tears. A Schirmer strip is placed under the eyelid to absorb tears for a couple of minutes before it is placed in a buffer fluid. The eluted proteins are transferred to the cartridge, and results are given in less than 30 minutes. The device resembles a memory stick and once the proteins react with the cartridge a line appears, much like a home pregnancy test, if there is a positive reading for breast cancer.
The innovative technology could potentially change the way screening is performed around the world.
The device is far less expensive than mammography and has a sensitivity of 90%, more accurate than mammograms at detecting early cancer. It could increase access to early diagnostics in areas where access to mammography is limited, and unlike mammography it can screen all women, regardless of age or breast density. This means that the technology could change the paradigm for how we screen for cancer in the future. The inexpensive test can be widely done at low costs, allowing the use of more expensive screenings like MRI on the positive reading.
Although the test could have been used as a home-test, the startup has no plans to develop an over-the-counter version. Instead they envision it to be part of an annual checkup, similar to a pap smear for cervical cancer, where it is conducted in a controlled, clinical setting.
The technology could help millions of women worldwide. In some parts of Africa, death rates are as high as 60%, mainly due to the lack of early diagnostics. Ascendant Dx could play a major part in lowering these devastating numbers, and help build cost-effective and feasible screening programs in all four corners of the earth. It could greatly increase the chances of successful treatment
, improve health outcomes and quality of life, and ultimately increase survival rates for all women with breast cancer.
Ascendant Dx was birthed in the University of Arkansas’ technology park in Fayetteville and in 2014 obtained $2 million in an investment round from unnamed strategic and private investors, as well as the Arkansas Economic Development Authority and Arkansas Science and Technology Administration. The startup has also received funding from
, and has previously been a finalist of
, as well as
's Startup Showcase, a pitch competition spotlighting innovative early stage companies.
The new tracer shows tumors in a 64 year old man newly
diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Researchers at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have developed a new radiotracer to diagnose prostate cancer and conducted a successful Phase I clinical trial, published in
The Journal of Nuclear Medicine
Prostate cancer is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide and is especially difficult to diagnose. While prostate cancer is relatively easy to treat in its early stages, it is prone to metastasis and can quickly become deadly. In order to plan how aggressively they should treat the cancer, it is important for doctors to know how far the cancer has progressed. Currently, doctors use a variety of imaging techniques and tests to diagnose and monitor prostate cancer including PSA blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET), and computerized tomography (CT) scans. Each method has strengths and weaknesses, but there is no single method that is able to successfully identify and monitor primary tumors, metastatic lymph nodes, and bone lesions.
The image above shows the new tracer identifying
prostate tumors and immunohistologic staining of
prostate tissue. Source: Xiaoyuan Chen, National
Xiaoyuan Chen, Ph.D., Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine at NIBIB, and his team attempted to solve this problem by developing a radiotracer that could identify prostate cancer at all stages. Radiotracers are made up of carrier molecules that are bonded tightly to a radioactive atom. Like a key fitting into a lock, the carrier molecules bind to certain receptors or biomarkers and the radioactive atoms enable PET or SPECT scanners to image areas where the tracers have collected in large numbers. This new tracer targets two biomarkers, gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) and integrin αvβ3, that often indicate prostate cancer. Previous tracers have targeted GRPR but this new tracer is one of the first dual-receptor target tracers, or tracers that target more than one biomarker, to be studied in humans.
The tracer was able to successfully identify 3 out of 4 primary tumors, all 14 metastatic lymph nodes and, significantly, was able to identity all 20 of the bone lesions in the patients. The current method of identifying bone lesions is to use the radiotracer MDP with a SPECT scanner. While this method is consistently able to identify bone lesions, it often comes up with false positives and is not able to identify primary tumors. This can cause the patient to undergo unnecessary treatments or painful biopsies.
“We are far from finding one method to diagnose and monitor prostate cancer, but this is a step in that direction,” says Chen. “Targeting multiple biomarkers could potentially allow us to identify prostate cancer at its early stages as well as after metastasis in one scan.”
Chen believes that dual-receptor targeting tracers could one day be the primary method for diagnosing and monitoring prostate cancer reducing the amount of medical scans a patient would be forced to undergo and streamlining the diagnostic and therapeutic process.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. With an estimated 350 million people suffering from the disorder, it is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Depression is a treatable illness and there are effective treatments, however, finding the right medication can be a process of trial and error. There is still little way to know which treatment will work, and many need to try two or three drugs or drug combinations before experiencing relief. A process that can take several years.
The New York-based startup
is determined to end the trial and error process of early depression treatment. They have developed a machine-learning model, based on peer-reviewed and published research, that help doctors make the best treatment decisions. The online assessment tool is a 10-minute test, consisting of 25 questions, which helps analyze the patient’s specific symptom profile and help understand which drugs might be most effective. Their algorithm can identify 66% of patients who will not recover from a specific drug, performing significantly better than a psychiatrist.
The technology is based on research by Adam Chekroud, who published a paper in the medical journal
The Lancet Psychiatry
on the model. April Koh read the paper and found it compelling after having friends and family go through the trial and error process, and decided to reach out.
Together with Abhishek Chandra they founded Spring, and have now developed an entire platform where physicians can administer digital screenings of patients, a simple 10 question survey, and track patient progress to make better treatment decisions.
The innovative, yet simple digital tool could help match patients with effective drugs. Currently, less than one-third of people treated for depression find relief from their first antidepressant, which is not only frustrating but can have serious consequences. Although Spring and their technology cannot replace physicians, it can play a major role in influencing decisions, potentially giving millions of patients their life back. The platform could even increase accuracy of assessment, reducing numbers of misdiagnosis. The digital nature of the solution also mean that it could increase access to care, potentially helping reduce the social stigma associated with mental disorders.
Several hundred patients have so far used Spring since its launch, and the startup is working with a network of psychiatrists around the US. It has been well received by both patients and physicians, and their feedback help guide the startup’s development and refine their product. They are also looking to develop additional tests for other behavioral health conditions and drugs.
Spring has previously participated in the
, an 8-week boot camp for accelerating ventures run by the
Yale Entrepreneurial Institute
, and won the $25,000 Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education from
. They have also received a $30,000 Bioscience Pipeline award, and been part of the
New York Digital Health Accelerator
. In 2017, Spring is part of
, a startup program specifically designed to bring digital health innovators and the clinical community together to drive better and faster innovation.
Perena Gouma, a professor in the UTA Materials Science
and Engineering Department, has published an article in an
academic journal that describes her invention of a
hand-held breath monitor that can detect the flu virus.
(Credit: UT Arlington)
Perena Gouma, a professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington, has published an article in the journal
that describes her invention of a hand-held breath monitor that can potentially detect the flu virus.
The article, published in January 2017, explains in-depth how the single-exhale sensing device works and the research involved in its creation, which was funded by the National Science Foundation through the Smart Connected Health program. Gouma's device is similar to the breathalyzers used by police officers when they suspect a driver of being under the influence of alcohol. A patient simply exhales into the device, which uses semiconductor sensors like those in a household carbon monoxide detector.
The difference is that these sensors are specific to the gas detected, yet still inexpensive, and can isolate biomarkers associated with the flu virus and indicate whether or not the patient has the flu. The device could eventually be available in drugstores so that people can be diagnosed earlier and take advantage of medicine used to treat the flu in its earliest stages. This device may help prevent flu epidemics from spreading, protecting both individuals as well as the public health.
Gouma and her team relied on existing medical literature to determine the quantities of known biomarkers present in a person's breath when afflicted with a particular disease, then applied that knowledge to find a combination of sensors for those biomarkers that is accurate for detecting the flu. For instance, people who suffer from asthma have increased nitric oxide concentration in their breath, and acetone is a known biomarker for diabetes and metabolic processes. When combined with a nitric oxide and an ammonia sensor, Gouma found that the breath monitor may detect the flu virus, possibly as well as tests done in a doctor's office.
"I think that technology like this is going to revolutionize personalized diagnostics. This will allow people to be proactive and catch illnesses early, and the technology can easily be used to detect other diseases, such as Ebola virus disease, simply by changing the sensors," said Gouma, who also is the lead scientist in the Institute for Predictive Performance Measurement at the UTA Research Institute.
"Before we applied nanotechnology to create this device, the only way to detect biomarkers in a person's breath was through very expensive, highly-technical equipment in a lab, operated by skilled personnel. Now, this technology could be used by ordinary people to quickly and accurately diagnose illness."