February 22, 2017

Astounding Medical Tech Breakthroughs

By Grace Carr
Computers and Phones Solve Skin Cancer Cases

Early detection of melanoma can be a matter of life and death. Skin cancer afflicts 1 in 5 Americans and is also a widespread global problem. But many people around the world lack ready access to a dermatologist. There may be a solution however, for researchers at Stanford University have discovered a way to get a computer to identify skin cancer, and the hope is that soon smartphones will be able to do the same. The researchers started out with a Google-supplied algorithm specially designed to learn from experience. The scientists fed 127,463 images of skin lesions, from 2,032 different diseases to the algorithm, which learned which patterns were associated with certain disorders. It can now distinguishbetween  harmless moles and the most common and curable cancers to the deadliest skin cancers. As the number of smartphones grows, this project could have a huge impact.

Virtual Reality Headset Eyes For the Blind

The company eSight has developed a visor, weighing less than a quarter pound and operated by hand-held remote, that captures the world through a camera system and displays it on OLED screens that sit close to the eyes. The visor dramatically amplifies sight for legally blind persons and those with impaired vision caused by ailments like Stargardt disease. ESight is taking advantage of tech that is cheaper, smaller, and faster than before and has been used to create smartphones and virtual-reality headsets. The eSight visor has been in development for 10 years but has now reached a level of functional maturity.  Using a hand-held controller, users can zoom and pan. The device can also be useful for the people with low vision who benefit from magnification. Persons using eSight report immediately seeing a boost in quality of life. The biggest remaining hurdle is lowering the cost of production so that the visors can be sold at an affordable price.

Smartphones Repurposed as Pocket Doctors

Smartphones will soon be able to monitor bone density, calculate red blood cell levels, and even predict asthma attacks. Scientists are repurposing technology to develop an app that can detect red blood cell levels and therefore quickly spot anemia. Researchers also believe future users will be able to tap phones over their bones to check for osteoporosis and use the microphone to test lung function. Researchers have also been working on using smartphones and computers to help support patients who are dealing with chronic conditions like diabetes or cancer, reminding them of which symptoms to expect on specific days and how to prepare. It seems highly likely that remote disease management via smartphone is in our near future.

Miracle Face Transplants Now Possible

The first full face transplant was just performed, giving a man a nose, cheeks, mouth, lips, jaw, chin, and teeth from a donor. The man had attempted suicide, putting a rifle beneath his chin and pulling the trigger. He survived but suffered a shattered mouth and nose, and had only two remaining teeth as well as little vision. A medical team reconstructed his upper and lower jaw with bone, muscle, and skin from the hip and a leg. They reconnected facial bones with titanium plates and screws. But that was not enough, and so he was added to the face transplant list. A medical team that had rehearsed the procedure for three and a half years successfully performed the surgery in 56-hours. It took about 24 hours to procure the donor’s face – which involved taking bone, muscle, skin, and nerves – and roughly 32 hours to rebuild the patient’s face. Today, his face looks and functions normally: the man has been given a second chance at life.