September 12, 2016

Life-improving medical breakthroughs

By Chelsea Follett
Prosthetic Limbs Get a Leg Up From 3-D Printing

A Japanese tech startup has developed the software to stably and cheaply 3-D print realistic prosthetic limbs from a flesh-like polymer. Prosthetic limbs can prove prohibitively expensive for amputees, particularly prosthetics specialized for activities such as swimming or skiing, or for wearing certain styles of shoes. The startup’s technology lowers the cost of prosthetics to the point that they could supply even relatively poor countries like the Philippines—where 350,000 people need artificial limbs and 90% currently cannot afford them. The company tested its technology by donating 100,000 prosthetics to Filipinos in need.

Smoke Detector Blood Test May Boost Cancer Survival Odds

A new “smoke detector” blood test can spot cancer’s presence long before symptoms develop. Early detection that catches cancer before it has spread to multiple parts of the body is often key to a patient’s survival, so spotting the disease early on a wide scale could significantly lower cancer death rates. Just as a smoke detector finds fire indirectly, by testing for a byproduct – smoke – the new blood test finds cancer by testing for a byproduct – mutated blood cells. According to one of the researchers behind the blood test, “The old adage of no smoke without fire also applies to ‘no cancer without mutation’, as mutation is the main driving force for cancer development.”  

Body Heat Could Power Wearable Technology

Imagine a future where while working out, your music player, your watch, your heart rate monitor, and other small technological devices all draw their electricity from your own body heat. A new piece of wearable technology seeks to make that future a reality. The lightweight device, made of thermally conductive material that rests against the skin and can be worn as an armband or embedded into athletic clothing, converts body heat into energy to power other wearable electronics. The creators are particularly interested in using the tech to power heart monitors and similar health-tracking devices without the need for batteries. The armband version of the device is currently more successful at generating electricity than the version embedded into an athletic t-shirt.