Printing Blood

Today, I was browsing around the internet investigating technological advances in health and stumbled across this infographic on an article called ‘The 7 Biggest Innovations in Health Care Technology in 2014‘.

Infographic accessed from ‘GetReferralMd‘ who cite ‘Medical Future‘ as their source.

The article discusses a few of the different ideas on this infographic. One of the things described as ‘in progress’ above is 3D Printed Bio Materials. This is the idea that we can use 3D printers to create organs, parts of organs, tissue matter, stem cells even bone marrow. Wow.

So, that’s what I’ve decided to focus on today. I did a bit of digging online and discovered some videos and more info about it to share with you. But no doubt I’ll be coming back to concentrate on other things in that fantastic infographic very shortly.

The geniuses at Organovo have been developing blood vessels. Take a quick look at the videos below – if you’re anything like me, you won’t be disappointed.

Video accessed from Organovo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbBo5rojUn0

Video posted by Raunaque Noor on Youtube, originally aired on The National Geographic Channel.

It just seems incredible that potentially so soon in the future this will be a viable option for the massive number of people needing organ transplants. I find this totally inspiring. It is so incredible what technical and digital developments are allowing us to do.

 

Ear Worm

I was taking a little browse through the #digitalhealth trend on Twitter this morning and came across @JanSeghers tweet linking to and article on Mashable discussing 5 big digital health innovations that will hit us in 2015. The one that caught my eye most was BitBite. Take a look at this video…

Video property of ‘Hello Bitbite‘ and accessed via YouTube.

Being someone that has tried (and often failed) to improve my eating habits (like most people in the UK) this seems like quite a cool idea. Although it is a little creepy to have something ‘whisper in your ear’. Personally, I think being constantly monitored and reminded is a good way to build up new habits and I think this is a really clever way of doing just that. Unfortunately as a skint student I can’t afford to back this on Indiegogo but I would if I could. Maybe more out of curiosity though because I do rather enjoy scoffing excessive amounts of cheese and marmite toasties.

Making Sense

Okay, so I’ve got a couple of videos to show you. Take a look, and you’ll see something I think is pretty incredible. It’s all about senses – particularly sound and sight – and how recently developed technology can improve upon sight (or even make it from scratch) for those who really need it. Forget Google Glass materialistically bringing the internet into our everyday vision and imagine being given a form of visual perception if you’d only ever seen darkness and grey vague shapes.

1.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tEa5XCrh95w

Video from the University of Bath.

2.

Youtube video courtesy of What’s the Big Deal?

Isn’t that incredible? Okay, so it may not be fully restoring sight and the sounds are pretty intense to you and me but that is a major development in technology and in health.

I stumbled across vOICe (with the capitalised ‘OIC’ standing for ‘Oh I See’, go on say it out loud) in the Guardian. It has been in the making for over a decade and the app is totally free so even you could turn your phone into this illusion of vision device.

The Guardian article above discusses the idea that this research and the vOICe device is more beneficial than stem cell technology. This is because using stem cells to improve vision can often be expensive and disappointing. People get their hopes up, expecting it to be how it was before and feel let down when they’re still only seeing the world sub-par to what it once was (often leading to other issues like depression).

I know that it seems quite overwhelming and doesn’t sound like it would be all that effective when you watch the video of walking round the yard but according to Proulx, the researcher whose work has been used here, it actually does a pretty good job. In an article in the Guardian he is quoted:

In the first couple of months after someone had received a retinal implant, they could expect to have a level of vision that was “20/800” – equivalent to being able to see the outline of things that were directly in front of them.

To put this in perspective, a short-sighted person who removed their glasses would have a level of vision that was around 20/400, meaning that they could see clearly up to a foot away. “We found that after just a week’s basic training, people were able to get to levels of 20/250.”

The actually technology is developed by Dr Peter Meijer, he has described the vOICe and learning to use it in an article by the BBC:

While it can’t track fast cars or read small print efficiently, it does allow blind users to trace out buildings, read a graph and even watch television.

Comparing it in terms of difficulty to learning a foreign language, Meijer hopes that in the long run, users will become more “fluent” in the mental translation so that it becomes more like natural perception, without conscious effort.

 

Think how much difference this kind of technology could make. It could just make everyday life that much easier. And I’m still astounded by just how clever it is.