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AR/VR Can Impact the Future of Healthcare

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Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are the latest technologies to emerge in the healthcare industry, and utilizing both could maximize existing medical treatment. Challenges that face the healthcare industry consist of constant demand from medical institutions and the lack of personnel to manage the exceeding workflow. Implementing AR/VR could optimize the healthcare field with access to different forms of therapy and treatment.  

Augmented reality uses cameras, sensors, and displays to pass on digital information to the real world. AR enhances the user’s visibility of the real world by superimposing the information and 3D elements. In virtual reality, the user’s experience a complete shift in their view via different scenes like a video game or rollercoaster ride film.

Medical providers already see the benefits of this technology, including diagnosing, treating, as well as advancing cure diagnosis of illnesses. With surging popularity and increasing demand for AR/VR in healthcare, experts predict this enterprise to reach $5.1 billion by the year 2025

Healthcare professionals are already using AR/VR in various ways, including:

Surgical Training

Something as intricate as surgery requires not only practice but also precision. Instead of observing surgeon conduct procedures, there is a more interactive tool that offers excellent training available for medical students that involve the use of VR. This form of training provides students guided lessons step by step with endless scenarios for proper preparation for any circumstances possible. 

Psychological Treatment:

AR/VR provides treatment for mental disorders, from stress-related disorders to eating disorders, and chronic pain. VR has been used for Veteran’s diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The simulation puts patients in situations that trigger flashbacks. This exercise helps patients to learn how to manage stress triggering situations properly. 

Diagnostic Advancements

Efficient detecting, preventing, and treating diseases is one of the ways AR can advance diagnostic assessments. The visual information from sensors into one interface demonstrates the potential causes of a patient’s state through analysis. This assessment gives the doctor the ability to look through the patient’s veins, organs, lesions, and other points without intrusion.

Virtual Cancer:

Through the use of VR Cancer Research UK Institute doctors can innovatively study cancer. A cancerous tumor sample is taken from the patient and allows doctors to observe the structure of cancer cells in detail from all angles. The purpose of the VR 3D model is to help cancer researchers better understand cancer and discover new treatments.

Rehabilitation for Brain Injuries:

Recovery from brain injuries is a challenge patients face with zero pharmacological therapy available. VR is a cost-effective tool that allows therapeutic engagement both at the patient’s bedside and during daily life at chronic stages after injury. Rehabilitation is now possible with VR that helps patients recover to regain a higher level of cognitive function. Utilizing VR therapy can help doctors detect areas where patients are still experiencing difficulties, such as memory loss or the inability to make decisions.

Both technologies are producing positive results for the physical and mental well being of patients. Incorporating the use of AR and VR helps scientific professionals further their understanding and treatment of numerous health conditions and diseases.

The rise of technology in the healthcare industry is rapidly growing with apps to find accessible healthcare and introducing the future of telehealth into the medical industry.

What are your thoughts on the latest technology emerging into healthcare? Do you think it could be beneficial to patients? Let us know in the comments!

Sources: 

  1. https://arpost.co/2019/12/24/how-ar-and-vr-creating-ripples-healthcare-industry/
  2. https://theappsolutions.com/blog/development/ar-vr-in-healthcare/
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46527235
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5964310/
  5. https://www.arm.com/blogs/blueprint/ten-ways-vr-ar-transforming-healthcare
  6. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/03/25/finding-accessible-healthcare-during-a-pandemic/

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Covid-19

NASA Engineers in Pasadena Build Advanced Ventilator for COVID-19 Patients

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To assist in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena have created a high-pressure ventilator prototype. This machine is specifically designed to provide help to COVID-19 patients, as stated by the agency

The system is called Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally, or VITAL, the technology has just passed an important test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. In the days ahead, NASA is hoping for a fast-track approval of the ventilator so it can be used to help critical coronavirus patients. 

The prototype operates like traditional ventilators, where sedated patients depend on an oxygen tube to help them breathe. The prototype is built to last three to four months, contrary to ventilators in hospitals that were designed to last for years to provide aid for patients with other medical conditions. Engineers of the prototype hope that traditional ventilators can be reserved for patients with severe symptoms from the coronavirus if VITAL is put into place. 

The advanced ventilator was also built to provide more oxygen at higher pressures than other models. According to Dr. Levin, who stated some of his patients needed that specific capability from the devices.

The agency stated engineers at JPL designed the ventilator to be easily built using fewer parts, a majority of them available in current supply chains. The purpose of the ventilator is not meant to compete with other exiting supply chains for ventilators. The VITAL machine is also designed to be adaptable with easy maintenance. It can be used in other settings hosting field settings, such as hotels and convention centers.

In addition to building a ventilator to help COVID-19 patients, NASA is also trying to help provide medical equipment in local communities like Antelope Valley, California.  Another helpful device is the Aerospace Valley Positive Helmet, which can be used to help treat coronavirus patients experiencing minor symptoms instead of using a ventilator. The helmet functions more like a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, a machine more commonly used to treat sleep apnea, according to the agency. The device has already been tested successfully and submitted to the FDA for emergency use authorization, while 500 are currently in production. 

The unit is the product of a collaborative partnership between NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and Antelope Valley Hospital, the city of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, Antelope Valley College, and personnel of the Antelope Valley Task Force

Previously the NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio teamed up with Emergency Products and Research, based in Ohio, to develop small portable devices that could disinfect ambulances quickly and cost-effectively known as AMBUStat. Both companies are looking to apply to the same methods during this pandemic as well. 

From 3D printed masks to protect health care professionals to NASA developing ventilators for COVID-19 patients, companies across the nation are stepping up to provide assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sources: 

  1. https://abc7.com/nasa-ventilator-jpl-jet-propulsion-laboratory-ventilators/6133594/
  2. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/03/27/3d-printing-to-help-with-surgical-mask-shortage/

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Covid-19

3D Printing for Organ Transplants?

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The use of 3D printers in the medical and dentistry field is vastly growing from dental implants to prosthetics, and models for surgeons to practice on before making cuts on a patient. Researchers have advanced past printing with plastics and metals to printing with cells that form into living human tissues. Although no one has printed fully functional transplantable human organs, scientists are making improvements. Researchers have been developing pieces of human tissue that can be used to test drugs and creating methods to succeed in the challenges of recreating the body’s complex biology. This article will explore some of the milestones achieved by research groups as well as some of the challenges they have faced on the journey to creating 3D printed organs. 

Cardiac Cells and Ear Transplants

Thus far, scientists have printed mini organoids and microfluidic models of tissues that are also known as organs on chips. The results from both microfluidics and organoids show encouraging insights into operating like the human body. Pharmaceutical companies created the models and are testing drugs before moving into animal studies, after which they will be moving to clinical trials. One group involved in the clinical trials printed cardiac cells on a chip and attached the cells to a bioreactor before testing the cardiac toxicity of a commonly known cancer drug, doxorubicin. The team revealed that the cells’ beating rate reduced significantly after exposure to the medication

Robby Bowles, a bioengineer at the University of Utah, stated that other companies had been involved with 3D printing. The companies studied printing 3D ears, transplanting the ears to children who had congenital disabilities such as underdevelopment of the ears. He acknowledged initial attempts of using 3D printing in the medical field. 

Organovo Studies 

Most recently, researchers have built patches of tissues that emulate fractions of particular organs but haven’t been able to replicate the complexity or cell density of a full organ. Some studies show that even a patch of human tissue could be useful for treatment in patients. However, Organovo, a company that announced its program to design 3D printed liver tissue for human transplants, revealed the results from a previous study. The company presented a successful live implant in a mouse model of genetic liver disease which raised multiple biomarkers that showed improvement in liver function

Researchers have also made progress with one of the biggest challenges in printing 3D organs by creating blood vessels or arranging of blood vessels in an organ, also known as vasculature. After patches were implanted into the mouse’s liver in the Organovo study, blood was supplied to it by the surrounding liver tissue. Still, an entire organ would need to be prepared for blood flow. 

Wyss Institute 

In 2018, Sébastian Uzel, Mark Skylar-Scott, and a team at the Wyss Institute were able to 3D print a tiny, beating heart ventricle complete with blood vessels. A few days later after printing the tissue, Uzel says he came into the lab and found a piece of tissue twitching, that was “very terrifying and exciting.”

The team used embedded printing rather than printing the veins in layers, a method in which instead of building from the bottom of a slide upwards, materials are released directly into a bath or matrix. This approach allows researchers to print “free form in 3D,” according to Skylar-Scott, instead of having to print a vascular tree. The matrix, in this case, was cellular material that made up the heart ventricle. This material, a gelatin-like ink, pushed these cells gently out of the way to create a network of channels. Once the printing was completed, the combination was then heated up. This heat caused the cellular matrix to solidify but caused the gelatin to liquify so it could then be washed out, leaving room for blood to flow through.  

Challenges

Though there are many advancements in 3D printing organs, scientists remain “a ways away” from printing more intricate tissues and organs that can be transplanted into living organisms, but this is the objective for many scientists to achieve soon according to Bowles. As reported by the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are over 112,000 people in the US waiting for an organ transplant, and 20 of those waiting die each day

For a long time, biological engineers have attempted to construct 3D structures that they could seed among stem cells that could later develop and form into organs. One reason this could be challenging according to Bowles “to a large extent don’t allow you to introduce the kind of the organization of gradients and the patterning that is in the tissue,”. Bowles also says “there is no control over where the cells go in that tissue.” In contrast to 3D printing which provides researchers with the ability to precisely direct the organization of the cells that could guide better control over organ development.

Another important aspect is that 3D printed organs would need to be created from cells that the patient’s immune system could identify as its own to prevent immune rejection and the need for patients to be prescribed immunosuppressive medication. 3D printed organs could be developed from patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells. However, the difficult aspect is getting the cells to differentiate into the subtype of mature cells required to form a specific organ. Bowles believes that “the difficulty is kind of coming together and producing complex patternings of cells and biomaterials together to produce different functions of the different tissues and organs.”.

Potential Solutions Moving Forward

To accomplish the emulation of patterns shown in vivo, there are still other methods scientists would have to develop. Scientists can print cells into hydrogels or different environments along with molecular signals and gradients built to influence the cells into arranging themselves into lifelike organs. 3D printing can be used by scientists to create these hydrogels as well. 

In the meantime, 3D printing of tissues is helping to expedite basic and clinical research regarding the human body. Though challenges associated with 3D printing remain, it has great potential to create organs and provide lifesaving organ transplants to patients. The advancement of the 3D printing continues to show promising results that could one day be effective in treating patients with critical conditions.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/on-the-road-to-3-d-printed-organs-67187?_ga=2.230604892.1926843048.1587572466-1658288134.1587572466
  2. https://organovo.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/ORG-AASLD2017-805_THX_VJ-FINAL.pdf
  3. https://unos.org/data/transplant-trends/
  4. https://www.bme.utah.edu/department-directory/#/filter-Faculty
  5. https://bioe.uic.edu/profiles/alsberg-eben/
  6. https://www.prellisbio.com/team
  7. https://lewisgroup.seas.harvard.edu/people/mark-skylar-scott
  8. https://lewisgroup.seas.harvard.edu/people/s%C3%A9bastien-g-m-uzel
  9. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/9/eaaw2459

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Digital Health

5 Apps for Prescription Delivery

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The coronavirus pandemic is keeping people at home and weary of leaving the house. Many health care facilities have implemented new rules and procedures to keep patients safe either for appointments or picking up prescriptions. Instead of going to your local pharmacy to pick up your prescriptions, you can download one of these five apps for instant access to your medications.

PharmEasy

With PharmEasy you can purchase medicine online and have it delivered to your home in 24-48 hours in select cities. You can purchase healthcare products and medical equipment. The application also allows you to schedule diagnostics tests. 

ZipDrug

This app provides you with medicine delivery in an hour and accepts insurance plans for easier payment methods. This app brings your medication to you and is available for iOS and Android. 

CVS

Download the CVS app to stay on track with your prescriptions and fill your medications online. You can choose from in-store pickup or free delivery 1 to 2 day or same-day options with Shipt. The app also allows you to add any other items to your cart including allergy relief medicines and vitamins. 

Medly 

The Medly pharmacy delivery app allows for a faster and easier refill for your prescriptions. Just notify your doctors to send your prescriptions to Medly and the app will alert you when you have a new prescription ready for delivery.

Walgreens

Instead of making a trip to your local Walgreens this app provides you with Rx text alerts and select delivery when prescriptions are ready. The app also has different delivery options to choose from for customer’s convenience.

Sources: 

  1. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/pharmeasy-healthcare-app/id982432643
  2. https://www.zipdrug.com/
  3. https://www.cvs.com/content/delivery
  4. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/medly-pharmacy-delivery/id1101899905
  5. https://www.walgreens.com/topic/pharmacy/prescription-delivery.jsp

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