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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Scientists 3D Bioprint a hybrid tissue construct for cartilage regeneration

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Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine scientists (WFIRM) have developed a method to bioprint a type of cartilage that could someday help restore knee function damaged by arthritis or injury.

This cartilage, known as fibrocartilage, helps connect tendons or ligaments or bones and is primarily found in the meniscus in the knee. The meniscus is the tough, rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in the knee joint. Degeneration of the meniscus tissue affects millions of patients and arthroscopic partial meniscectomy is one of the most common orthopedic operations performed. Besides surgery, there is a lack of available treatment options.

In this latest proof-of-concept strategy, the scientists have been able to 3D bioprint a hybrid tissue construct for cartilage regeneration by printing two specialized bioinks – hydrogels that contain the cells – together to create a new formulation that provides a cell-friendly microenvironment and structural integrity. This work is done with the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System, a 3D bioprinter that was developed by WFIRM researchers over a 14-year period. The system deposits both biodegradable, plastic-like materials to form the tissue “shape” and bioinks that contain the cells to build new tissues and organs.

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Israeli smokable cannabis sticks to hit US market in January

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StickIt CBD sticks

The main upside to these smokable sticks is their consistency. The sticks allow for accurate, measured doses of cannabis extracts, making them much easier to regulate worldwide.

The Israeli start-up industry could be taking over an unexpected new market: smokable cannabis sticks.

Last month, an Israeli start-up, TrichomeShell, which makes a smokable cannabis toothpick called “moodpicks,” smashed fundraising goals as they prepared to enter the Canadian cannabis market.

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This electronic patch can monitor, treat heart disease, say scientists

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According to the scientists, while pacemakers and other implantable devices are used to monitor and treat irregular heartbeats, these are mostly made with rigid materials that can’t move to accommodate a beating heart.

The patch has been developed with rubbery electronic materials compatible with heart tissue

Researchers have developed a patch made from rubbery electronics that can be placed directly on the heart to collect information on its activity, temperature, and other indicators — an innovation that may help look out for cardiac arrest in vulnerable individuals.

According to the scientists, including those from the University of Houston (UH) in the US, while pacemakers and other implantable devices are used to monitor and treat irregular heartbeats, these are mostly made with rigid materials that can’t move to accommodate a beating heart.

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Medical innovations that will revolutionize the future of you healthcare

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2020 has ingrained in me an age-old adage my mom loves to quote – health is wealth. Focus on our healthcare and the strain on our healthcare system has increased exponentially this year. While the world altogether has jumped up to help improve our healthcare systems, what can truly help is improved preventive methods, devices that help the patients monitor their health from home as well as to stay in touch with their doctors virtually while providing accurate data. The best example of the data’s impact is how an Apple Watch helped saved a man’s life by detecting problems with his heartbeat – and this is just the beginning. The products here show the best of healthcare we can provide to make this world a better place!

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Nanobiologic approach trains the innate immune system to eliminate tumor cells

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A groundbreaking new type of cancer immunotherapy developed at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai trains the innate immune system to help it eliminate tumor cells through the use of nanobiologics, tiny materials bioengineered from natural molecules that are paired with a therapeutic component, according to a study published in Cell in October.

This nanobiologic immunotherapy targets the bone marrow, where part of the immune system is formed, and activates a process called trained immunity. This process reprograms bone marrow progenitor cells to produce “trained” innate immune cells that halt the growth of cancer, which is normally able to protect itself from the immune system with the help of other types of cells, called immunosuppressive cells.

This work for the first time demonstrates that trained immunity can be successfully and safely induced for the treatment of cancer. The research was performed in animal models, including a mouse model with melanoma, and the researchers said it is being developed for clinical testing.

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Don’t drop your diet yet, but scientists have discovered how CRISPR can burn fat

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A personalized therapy for metabolic conditions that are linked to obesity could involve removing a small amount of a person’s fat, transforming it into an energy-burning variation using CRISPR gene-editing, and then re-implanting it into the body, according to researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In tests involving mice, the implanted human fat cells helped lower sugar concentrations in the blood and decrease fat in the liver. When the mice were put on a high-fat diet, the ones that had been implanted with the human beige fat only gained half as much weight as those that had been implanted with regular human fat.

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Researchers 3D-printed a cell-sized tugboat

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The aim was to see how microorganisms like sperm or bacteria swim.

 Physicists at Leiden University in the Netherlands have 3D printed what could be the world’s smallest boat, a test object known as Benchy (via Gizmodo). At 30 microns long, it’s a third smaller than the thickness of a human hair and about six times larger than a bacteria cell. It’s not only small but surprisingly detailed, with an open cockpit that features some tricky geometry. The goal is to understand how “microswimmers” like bacteria and sperm move through liquids.

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