The medical field has always been on the cutting edge of new technology. From microscopic implants to handheld 3-D scanners, medical breakthroughs are on the rise. Private companies, government agencies and educational institutions are spending millions of dollars to develop the most amazing medical breakthroughs of 2012. The trend seems to favor diagnostic tools that can sense and treat disorders from the inside out.
Award-winning developer, Medtronic has unleashed its researchers on the task of fighting neurological abnormalities and diseases. In 2012, the company announced its latest device, a brain implant that detects and treats epilepsy. The implant is part sensor array and part neurological simulator. The tiny implant can track electrical changes in the brain and make instant corrections that might save a patient's life. Doctors can use this technology to treat a wide-range of disorders including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and Parkinson's disease.
Using only conventional materials and electronic components, Belgian electrical engineer Jan Vanfleteren has developed a bendable microchip that can be inserted into the human body. The computer chip measures just 30 micrometers and can be stretched up to 50% of its own length. Instead of using external computers to monitor and respond to changes in a patient's condition, this new microchip can internally process data and quickly relay important information to healthcare professionals. Future applications of this technology include computer sensors that detect heart palpitations and the onset of neurological disorders.
Another great diagnostic tool developed for the medical industry is called Scoliscore. With a small sample of saliva, doctors can now assess a patient's risk for scoliosis. The saliva sample contains a patient's DNA, which is used to determine a patient's genetic propensity for the spinal abnormality. Scoliscore identifies and screens thirty-five different genetic markers for scoliosis and is nearly one hundred percent accurate. Scoliosis mostly affects children and adolescents, so this pain-free testing method is an amazing technological breakthrough for pediatricians.
The Myomo System
Myomo stands for My Own Motion, and researchers at MIT have developed this system to help stroke patients regain movement in their limbs. The Myomo System is a combination of robotic technology and sensors that strengthen a patients own natural impulses for movement. The sensors are placed on the affected muscles and a robotic brace is used to assist a patient's range of motion. Myomo does not artificially force muscles to move, but strengthens the body's own response to the brain's movement signals. The system helps stroke patients relearn muscle movements quicker and more efficiently.
3-D Medical Scanner
Engineers at the University of Illinois have leveled the playing field in medical diagnostics with the help of a new, revolutionary 3-D scanner. Doctors and surgeons in hospitals have had access to this technology for a few years now but the new scanner is made available to primary care physicians. The 3-D medical scanner utilizes a technology called OCT, or Optical Coherence Tomography. The scanner is closely related to ultrasound devices, but uses light instead of sound waves. A potential application for this technology is diagnosing diabetic patients with retinal scans. According to Science Daily, 40 to 45 percent of diabetic patients suffer from a degenerative retinal condition called retinopathy. The handheld scanner can detect retinopathy in its earliest stages and give doctors a head start in treating diabetes.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Laura Little is a medical transcriptionist and guest author at Health Information Technology.
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