Future wearable health tech could measure gases released from skin

The study suggests future health sensors could work by detecting chemicals released from the skin.

By Tatyana Woodall


Scientists have taken the first step to creating the next generation of wearable health monitors.  

Most research on measuring human biomarkers, which are measures of a body’s health, rely on electrical signals to sense the chemicals excreted in sweat. But sensors that rely on perspiration often require huge amounts of it just to get a reading. 

A new study suggests that a wearable sensor may be able to monitor the body’s health by detecting the gases released from a person’s skin. 

“It is completely non-invasive, and completely passive on the behalf of the user,” said Anthony Annerino, lead author of the study and a graduate student in materials science and engineering at The Ohio State University.  

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Average Retirees Spend More Than 30% of Social Security on This 1 Expense

Don’t underestimate how big a chunk it will take out of your Social Security benefits.

By Christy Bieber

Key Points

  • Many retirees rely on Social Security to help them cover costs.
  • Social Security benefits aren’t as big as people often think they will be.
  • The typical retiree spends around 31% of their Social Security income on one large expense. 

If you’re anticipating that Social Security benefits are going to help cover most of your expenses as a retiree, you’re in for a big disappointment. 

While your retirement income from the Social Security Administration will undoubtedly be helpful in supporting you in your later years, it’s nowhere near enough to provide for everything you need.

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Wireless E-Tattoo for Pneumonia Aims to Transform Patient Monitoring

Pneumonia has emerged as a life-threatening complication of COVID-19, accounting for nearly half of all patients who have died from the novel coronavirus in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pneumonia was responsible for more than 43,000 deaths in 2019.

Monitoring pneumonia remains a challenge because it manifests itself differently in almost every patient and can develop in any patient infected by coronavirus. The Georgia Institute of Technology is part of a team of engineers, data scientists, and medical clinicians led by the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin that has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s ASCENT program. The purpose of this project is to develop a wearable device for patients with pneumonia, allowing medical personnel to track their progress remotely and use data to predict how their condition may change.

This project combines state-of-the-art technology across wearable devices, integrated circuits and machine learning. And the larger goal is to develop ways to safely monitor patients remotely and maintain high-quality care, wherever they are.

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Americans Spending on Top 20 Drugs Nearly Doubles the Rest of the World Combined

A Pharmacy tech fills prescriptions at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020.

By Naveen Athrappully

The United States outspent every other country in the world combined when it came to the top-selling 20 pharmaceutical drugs, according to a recent analysis of company financial filings by Public Citizen.

Americans spent a total of $101.1 billion, while the rest of the world spent $56.8 billion, on the top 20 drugs. The key findings of the analysis report (pdf) indicate that U.S. consumers overpay for drugs, and do not necessarily intake more than people from other countries.

The best-selling 20 drugs brought $157.8 billion in total global revenue for pharma companies with the U.S. accounting for 64 percent of the revenue pie. The sizable disparity makes the U.S. market essentially a cash cow for Big Pharma, which is fighting efforts to decrease the spending.

“Deceptive TV ads paid for by Big Pharma try to frighten and mislead Americans about new legislative efforts that would empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices,” said the report.

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Next-gen wheelchairs are modular and shapeshifting

Next-generation wheelchairs are pushing the boundaries of mobility

Wheelchairs provide valuable independence to their owners. Designs vary according to the terrain and user needs. Both of these can change over time. However, their price makes it difficult to afford more than one chair.  In response, designers are taking cues from bikes and robotics to make wheelchairs that adapt to the varied user needs.

The UNAwheel Maxi device is a wheelchair add-on. It hooks onto the front of an existing chair and is compatible with basic and active wheelchairs without adding extra weight. It comes with button steering to accelerate, decelerate, and turn. 

The steering section is made of a combination of metal (hydroforming/cutting technology) and plastic (injection molding), the handles are made of rubber, and the main body of plastic (RIM). It is easy to operate and can be easily and quickly attached to and detached from the wheelchair. 

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The Robot Will See You Now: Health-Care Chatbots Boom but Still Can’t Replace Doctors

Scout’s job is just to ask questions. A lot of them.

How long have you had a fever? Are you feeling short of breath? When you bend your neck forward, is there pain that is so severe it makes you want to cry?

If so, Scout might recommend a trip to the emergency room. Scout is usually overly cautious about these things. It kind of has to be, as a robot.

Scout is a conversational chatbot made by health tech company Gyant and used by Intermountain Healthcare in Utah to tell patients what they should do when they feel sick. It may suggest getting some good rest, or setting up a doctor’s appointment or, oftentimes, making a trip to the ER or an urgent-care facility.

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Telemedicine with 5G could be a gamechanger for military health

Telehealth became an even bigger industry during COVID-19. Doctors were forced to think of creative ways to see patients as people were forced to stay home to avoid the spread of the virus.

However, as 5G is starting to roll out, telehealth may be breaking into a completely new plane. At Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) the Air Force is testing capabilities that could be the future of medicine.

“5G brings a whole new paradigm and architecture to the table. From what we’ve seen before even up through the current 5G  non-standalone that you see advertised on TV today,” Jody Little, executive program manager for 5G NextGen at JBSA, said during a Federal Insights discussion sponsored by Verizon. “Now you can bring large amounts of data forward or back to it and operate in the forward edge. You can virtualize these applications and get very ultra-low latency. And now you’re supporting lots of sensors. Whereas in, say, 4G, you could support maybe 100. Here, you can support 1000s.”

That means that doctors have the opportunity to monitor patients like never before. Doctors across the country can sit in on surgeries and experience them as if it were almost in-person by looking at multiple sensors and using virtual reality.

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The hospital room of the future: 5 innovation execs outline what to expect in next 5 years

By Jackie Drees

Digital health and tech adoption have skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many hospitals and health systems adopting technologies that support remote patient monitoring, two-way video communications and more. 

Here, five hospital executives share predictions for what they think the hospital room of the future will look like in the next five years. 

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Smart magnetic soft materials to develop artificial muscles and therapeutic robots

Interaction forces between magnetic particles translate into macroscopic transformations of the smart polymers

by Carlos III University of Madrid

Developing a new generation of artificial muscles and soft nanorobots for drug delivery are some of the long-term goals of 4D-BIOMAP, an ERC research project being undertaken by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M).This project develops cross-cutting bio-magneto-mechanical methodologies to stimulate and control biological processes such as cell migration and proliferation, the organism’s electrophysiological response, and the origin and development of soft tissue pathologies.

“The overarching idea of this research project is to influence different biological processes at the cellular level (i.e., wound healing, brain synapses or nervous system responses) by developing timely engineering applications,” explains 4D-BIOMAP’s lead researcher, Daniel García González from the UC3M’s Department of Continuum Mechanics and Structural Analysis.

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Tattoo made of gold nanoparticles revolutionizes medical diagnostics

Gold nanoparticles embedded in a porous hydrogel can be implanted under the skin and used as medical sensors. The sensor is like an invisible tattoo revealing concentration changes of substances in the blood by color change. Credit: Nanobiotechnology Group, JGU Department of Chemistry

By Universitaet Mainz

The idea of implantable sensors that continuously transmit information on vital values and concentrations of substances or drugs in the body has fascinated physicians and scientists for a long time. Such sensors enable the constant monitoring of disease progression and therapeutic success. However, until now, implantable sensors have not been suitable to remain in the body permanently and require replacement after a few days or weeks.

There is also the problem of implant rejection as the immune system recognizes the sensor as a foreign object. With many technologies, the sensor’s color, which indicates concentration changes, is unstable and fades over time. Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have developed a novel type of implantable sensor that can be implanted in the body for several months. The sensor is based on color-stable gold nanoparticles that are modified with receptors for specific molecules. Embedded into an artificial polymeric tissue, the nanogold is implanted under the skin, where it reports changes in drug concentrations by changing its color.

Professor Carsten Soennichsen’s research group at JGU has been using gold nanoparticles as sensors to detect tiny amounts of proteins in microscopic flow cells for many years. Gold nanoparticles act as small antennas for light: They strongly absorb and scatter it, and appear colorful. They react to alterations in their surrounding by changing color. Soennichsen’s team has exploited this concept for implanted medical sensing.

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Detecting single molecules and diagnosing diseases with a smartphone

by Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

a TEM image (left, reproduced at least 3 times) and sketches (right) of the DNA origami structure used for the nanoantenna assembly with the position of the plasmonic hotspot indicated in red. A representative class averaged TEM image of the DNA origami used is shown on the upper right. b Schematics of NACHOS assembly: the DNA origami construct is bound to the BSA-biotin coated surface via biotin-NeutrAvidin interactions, thiolated DNA-functionalized 100 nm silver particles are attached to the DNA origami nanoantenna via polyadenine (A20) binding strands in the zipper-like geometry to minimize the distance between the origami and the nanoparticles30. c TEM image of a NACHOS with 100 nm silver nanoparticles (reproduced at least 3 times). d Single-molecule fluorescence intensity transients, measured by confocal microscopy, normalized to the same excitation power of a single Alexa Fluor 647 dye incorporated in a DNA origami (orange) and in a DNA origami nanoantenna with two 100 nm silver nanoparticles (blue) excited at 639 nm e. Fluorescence enhancement distribution of Alexa Fluor 647 measured in NACHOS with 100 nm silver nanoparticles. A total number of 164 and 449 single molecules in the reference (more examples are provided in Supplementary Fig. 3) and NACHOS structures were analyzed, respectively. Credit: Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21238-9

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers show that the light emitted by a single molecule can be detected with a low-cost optical setup. Their prototype could facilitate medical diagnostics.

Biomarkers play a central role in the diagnosis of disease and assessment of its course. Among the markers now in use are genes, proteins, hormones, lipids and other classes of molecules. Biomarkers can be found in the blood, in cerebrospinal fluid, urine and various types of tissues, but most of them have one thing in common: They occur in extremely low concentrations, and are therefore technically challenging to detect and quantify.

Many detection procedures use molecular probes, such as antibodies or short nucleic-acid sequences, which are designed to bind to specific biomarkers. When a probe recognizes and binds to its target, chemical or physical reactions give rise to fluorescence signals. Such methods work well, provided they are sensitive enough to recognize the relevant biomarker in a high percentage of all patients who carry it in their blood. In addition, before such fluorescence-based tests can be used in practice, the biomarkers themselves or their signals must be amplified. The ultimate goal is to enable medical screening to be carried out directly on patients, without having to send the samples to a distant laboratory for analysis.

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The Future of Healthcare Is in the Cloud

Secure and reliable virtual access to healthcare professionals and data has become table stakes for us to meet our 21st century challenges and goals.

By Morris Panner

We will look back on 2020 as a pivotal moment for the use of cloud computing in healthcare. As the pandemic swept away old constraints, digital health innovators rushed in. In the face of a major crisis, providers and technologists worked tirelessly to make healthcare better, pushing change to save lives. Innovation and entrepreneurship don’t come without risk, but they also can provide enormous benefits. Collecting and sharing data via the cloud will enable a healthcare system fit for the 21st century. 

This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. The banking industry for example is reaping the benefits of a major digital transformation that was driven by cloud adoption over the last decade. Until now healthcare providers have been reticent to embrace the same kind of IT modernization. Concerns about security, legal compliance, and potential downtime when dealing with the most sensitive personal data in life and death situations are all legitimate, but can all be addressed. Secure and reliable virtual access to healthcare professionals and data has become table stakes for us to meet our 21st-century challenges and goals.

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