industry news

8 MARCH 2018

New project uses digital tools to treat orthopaedic injuries

The Travelers Companies has partnered with Samsung Electronics America, Cedars-Sinai, Bayer and appliedVR to test therapeutic virtual reality (VR) and wearable technology for the treatment of acute orthopaedic injuries.

This digital kit will be trialled as a non-pharmacological supplement to manage pain caused due to injuries of the lower back and extremities. It will analyse day-to-day functional status, work productivity and pain medication use.

The 16-month project will be carried out by Cedars-Sinai’s Center for Outcomes Research and Education and Department of Orthopaedic Surgery with 90-140 subjects aged 18-65 years who experienced workplace injuries.

Travelers National Pharmacy director Dr Melissa Burke said: “Workplace injuries that lead to chronic pain can cause ongoing issues, as an injured employee may mask pain with opioids or other drugs.

“Identifying new, non-pharmacologic alternatives for pain management can help an injured employee avoid chronic pain, lower the chances that they will develop a dangerous opioid addiction and reduce medical costs.” 

The new project is based on previous findings by Samsung Electronics America, appliedVR and Cedars-Sinai that revealed the capability of VR to minimise pain in hospitalised patients, offering a non-pharmacologic alternative to opiates.

The pain-reduction kit to be tested in the project will include Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR and headset, Samsung GearFit2 wearable and therapeutic pain management content backed by appliedVR’s biosensors.

In addition, Bayer will supply AleveDirect Therapy transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) Device for lower back pain from sore and aching muscles associated with strain due to exercise and common household and work activities.

8 MARCH 2018

US researchers create new membrane for microchips

Researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology in the US have developed a new collagen-based membrane for use in organs-on-chips to allow better diagnosis and treatment of digestive conditions.

Claimed to be more natural than existing products, the new membrane is expected to allow microchips to better mimic the way healthy intestinal cells become diseased or respond to drugs.

Organ-on-a-chip devices usually consist of a porous membrane surrounded by two flexible, translucent polymers or plastics.

Researchers believe that the commonly used plastic membranes could disturb interactions between cells, which are obtained from a human organ and grown on the polymer or the membrane.

They expect that the newly developed more natural membrane will facilitate normal cell growth and development.

In order to validate the new membrane, the team compared three separate microfluidic devices, with one plastic-derived membrane, one from collagen, and one membrane-free.

Researchers observed that five days after the implantation of human colon cells into each device, cells on the collagen-based membrane were more viable compared to those in the remaining two devices.

Furthermore, cells grown on the natural membrane were found to be more distinctive and better integrated with collagen fibres, altering the microenvironment.

Based on these findings, the team concluded that use of collagen-based membranes in organ-on-a-chip devices will increase growth, viability and barrier function of human colon cells. The researchers also hope to observe similar effect on cells from other organs.

8 MARCH 2018

RCSI researchers develop blood test to detect early Alzheimer’s

Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have devised a new blood test in collaboration with clinicians from Spain to help diagnose early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the team, the new test will measure concentration changes of a small molecule, microRNA, to detect the condition even when symptoms are only mild.

The test is also intended to predict disease progression and is expected to help in deciding possible therapies for future treatment.

RCSI Physiology lecturer Dr Tobias Engel said: “Research into the condition is largely focussed on the development of new therapies. However, new therapies need diagnostic methods, which are affordable and minimally invasive and can be used to screen large populations.

“Our research carried out over the past four years has identified changes in blood levels of a small molecule called microRNA, which is able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at a very early stage and is able to distinguish Alzheimer’s from brain diseases with similar symptoms.”

The new diagnostic method is considered important as Alzheimer’s affects 48 million people across the world and no new treatments have been launched in 20 years since most of them fail at clinical trial stages.

This failure is believed to be due to their use at advanced stages of the disease characterised by irreversible brain damage.

Currently, Dr Engel and his team are working to translate the research funded by the COEN initiative (NEUROmiR) and RCSI, into a test for patients.

7 March 2018

Stretchy brain implant could treat neurological disorders

An international team of scientists has developed a bio-compatible elastic material composite that can conduct electricity, which could eventually be used to diagnose and treat long-term neurological disorders.

Their paper, ‘High-Density Stretchable Electrode Grids for Chronic Neural Recording’, published in Advanced Materials, describes a ‘soft, high-density, stretchable electrode grid’ that, when applied to the surface of the cortex of rats, can collect neural signals for three months following implantation. The work was completed by scientists from the laboratory of organ electronics at Linköping University, ETH Zürich, Columbia University and New York University.

“When the neurons in the brain transmit signals, a voltage is formed that the electrodes detect and transmit onwards through a tiny amplifier,” said Klas Tybrandt, leader of the soft electronics group at the laboratory of organic electronics.

“We can also see which electrodes the signals came from, which means that we can estimate the location in the brain where the signals originated.

“This type of spatiotemporal information is important for future applications. We hope to be able to see, for example, where the signal that causes an epileptic seizure starts, a prerequisite for treating it.”

The team identified neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease as ones that could be treated through electrical stimulation, and was clear that artificial composites could be more effective than natural body parts for the treatment.

“As human tissue is elastic and mobile, damage and inflammation arise at the interface with rigid electronic components,” said Klas Tybrandt, leader of the soft electronics group at the laboratory of organic electronics. “It not only causes damage to tissue; it also attenuates neural signals.”

The conductive composite consists of gold-coated titanium dioxide nanowires embedded into silicone rubber; it is as soft as human tissue and can be stretched up to twice its length. The flexible nature of the composite means that surgical implantation is relatively non-invasive.

“However, current and emerging therapies would benefit from the use of closed feedback systems, in which recorded signals are used to control the stimulation for optimal effect,” says the report. “This approach requires the establishment of a well-integrated, long-term stable, electronic–neural interface to pick up weak neural signals.”

7 MARCH 2018

AMRA and Siemens to enhance access to body composition analysis

AMRA has signed a new agreement to integrate its body composition analysis into Siemens Healthineers Digital Ecosystem for increased access to healthcare professionals and researchers.

Intended to aid in disease prediction, AMRA’s body composition analysis is an automated method designed to convert a six-minute whole body MRI scan into 3D-volumetric fat and muscle measurements.

This information is expected to enable accurate assessment of volume and distribution of fat and muscles, and metabolic status.

AMRA CEO Tommy Johansson said: “We are excited that AMRA’s body composition analysis will be easily accessible through the Digital Ecosystem and to users of Siemens Healthineers MRI scanners.

“Through this partnership, we will be working closely with a driven and innovative team, which is digitalising healthcare and making deeper insights available to healthcare providers globally.”

Siemens developed its Digital Ecosystem to offer an open and secure environment for integration of information from a global network of healthcare stakeholders.

The platform currently includes nearly 2,000 institutions across approximately 50 countries that obtain insights based on new applications and services.

Siemens Healthineers Digital Ecosystem head Alexander Lippert said: “The spectrum of members’ data, capabilities, digital offerings and access points to the Digital Ecosystem keeps growing and allows healthcare providers worldwide to harness the power of healthcare going digital.

“We will generate unprecedented insights through our own offerings, as well as through innovative digital health partners like AMRA.”

Through its integrated platform, the firm intends to help customers in delivering value-based care with improved outcomes and lower costs.

7 MARCH 2018

Abbott secures US approval for paediatric mechanical heart valve

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Abbott’s Masters HP 15mm mechanical heart valve, which can treat paediatric patients requiring mitral or aortic valve replacement.

Developed specifically for newborns and infants, the new rotatable, bileaflet Masters heart valve is smaller and offers an alternative to larger devices that are not considered suitable for babies’ hearts.

When functioning correctly, the mitral and aortic valves of the heart work sequentially to move blood through the organ and supply oxygen-rich blood to the body.

“Mechanical heart valves are designed to duplicate a healthy heart valve, opening and closing with each heartbeat and allowing proper blood flow through the heart.”
This process is important for the heart to function properly and any alteration from the normal working of the valves could result in life-threatening organ failure.

Mechanical valves are designed to mimic a healthy heart valve, opening and closing with each heartbeat and allowing proper blood flow through the vital organ.

Abbott structural heart business vice-president Michael Dale said: “There’s an urgent need for the smallest babies and children who need a suitable replacement valve in order to survive.

“Abbott’s new mechanical paediatric heart valve is a life-changing technology for the smallest paediatric patients, giving them a better chance at a long, healthy life with a fully functioning heart.”

Before the approval of the new heart valve, the FDA reviewed findings from a clinical trial that involved paediatric subjects aged five years or below and had a diseased, damaged or malfunctioning heart valve.

The first implantation during the trial was carried out at the Seattle Children’s Hospital Heart Center, US.

6 MARCH 2018

Owlstone Medical raises £11m for Breath Biopsy platform

Owlstone Medical, a diagnostics company developing a breathalyser for disease, has raised £11m to drive the commercialisation of its Breath Biopsy platform.

The funding round was co-led by new investor Horizons Ventures and existing investor Aviva. It also includes follow-on investment from Owlstone Medical’s existing backers. The funds will enable the company to bring its lung cancer Breath Biopsy test to market, deepen the early detection pipeline with ongoing trials across multiple cancers and further grow its existing precision medicine services to the pharmaceutical industry.

Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: “We are delighted that Horizons Ventures has joined forces with Aviva to co-lead this funding round. Since founding the company, we have established Breath Biopsy as a new industry category and are confident that this funding will allow us to demonstrate the significant value that we can deliver from our market leading position in early detection and precision medicine.”

Owlstone Medical claims that its Breath Biopsy platform has the potential to revolutionise early detection and precision medicine, with applications in cancer and a wide range of other conditions. The technology allows for diseases to be detected earlier, when treatments are more effective. It can also be used to enable precise administration of medicine, ensuring that the right drug is given to the right patient at the right time, which helps to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

Horizons Ventures’ Patrick Zhang said: “We are pleased to join Aviva Ventures and other key strategic investors in this financing round. We believe Owlstone Medical is positioned to become a strong player in the fields of early cancer detection and precision medicine across multiple therapeutic areas. We are confident that Owlstone Medical’s Breath Biopsy platform could have a major impact on healthcare.”

The Breath Biopsy platform is currently being evaluated in the world’s largest breath-based clinical trials for two of the most common cancer killers globally – lung and colorectal cancer. The platform is also being used in the PAN cancer trial, a collaboration with Cancer Research UK that is studying the early detection of eight different cancer types in breath.

The company’s Breath Biopsy service enables academic, clinical and pharmaceutical partners to explore breath-based diagnostics or biomarkers to optimise their own precision medicine activities. It is attracting high-profile global pharmaceutical clients, with GlaxoSmithKline recently choosing to integrate the platform into the clinical development programme of one of the novel drug candidates in its respiratory disease pipeline.

6 MARCH 2018

Zebra Medical’s AI algorithm gets CE-Mark to detect brain bleeds

Israeli company Zebra Medical Vision has obtained the European CE-Mark for the use of its new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to detect various types of intracranial haemorrhages or brain bleeds.

The regulatory approval expands the firm’s Deep Learning Imaging Analytics platform under its All-In-One (AI1) business model.

This imaging platform also includes algorithms to automatically identify low bone mineral density, vertebral fractures, fatty liver, coronary artery calcium and emphysema, among other conditions.

According to statistics, around six million deaths per year occur due to brain bleed related conditions and therefore timely detection is considered important. The new algorithm is intended to address these challenges by accurately detecting such bleeds.
Zebra Medical Vision co-founder and CEO Elad Benjamin said: “We’re excited to announce our first acute care algorithm with the potential to help radiologists better manage their workload, and properly prioritise urgent cases over others.

“This helps take PACS & Worklist management systems to the next level in helping radiologists manage patient care, all in a transparent and globally affordable business model.”

With plans to introduce the new algorithm for point-of-care, the firm expects to equip physicians with better precision and minimal delay.

Furthermore, Zebra Medical is planning to launch additional high impact algorithms to deliver AI-based automated radiology assistance.

Intermountain Healthcare clinical and outreach services chief Dr Mike Phillips said: “The ability to alert radiologists and surgeons to the presence of brain bleeds is critical, and will bring significant benefits in patient care to healthcare organisations.”

In March last year, Intermountain Healthcare selected Zebra Medical Vision to deploy enterprise imaging analytics.