Monitoring progress is absolutely essential to achieving weight loss and to successfully maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The difficulty lies in selecting which information to log and just what to make of it all. Enter BodyMedia FIT. Body monitoring system developer BodyMedia has created an armband that dually monitors physical and physiological activity (and inactivity) to paint a full picture of how much progress a user is making and where improvements can be made. The device has received considerable accolade from Time, Wired, the New York Times due to its spread of data tracking metrics and app-driven customization options.  BodyMedia CEO Christine Robins recently answered some of our questions and spoke on her company, its innovative tracking metrics, and its plans for the future.

Q: Please describe BodyMedia and its offerings.

A: BodyMedia is the pioneer in developing and marketing wearable body monitors that equip people with info to make changes to their own health and wellness.  The BodyMedia platform is the only system of its kind that is registered with the FDA as a Class II medical device and that has been clinically proven to enhance users’ weight loss by up to three times.  BodyMedia has developed an innovative and wearable weight loss and activity monitoring system – BodyMedia FIT. The Armbands measure motion, heat flux, skin temperature and galvanic skin response to track calorie burn, physical activity, steps taken, sleep duration, and sleep efficiency. Users incorporate the use of the online tool where the use logs food intake allowing them to see daily caloric intake, daily caloric expenditure, calorie balance and more.

BodyMedia has two Armbands: The CORE Armband, a third smaller in overall volume than its predecessors, provides the same results, in a sleeker package. Stats can be viewed on the optional Displace device, which can be worn as a wristband or clipped to a pocket to provide updates throughout the day. Using the USB port to plug into the computer provides a full spectrum of results via the online Dashboard as well.

The LINK Armband is enabled with Bluetooth wireless technology to send real time results straight to the BodyMedia FIT App for mobile devices. BodyMedia FIT Mobile Apps are also available for food logging and updates when using the CORE Armband. All of the tools provide personalized weight- management system that collects data day and night.

Q: How do the BodyMedia FIT Armband’s four sensors create an accurate projection of calorie burn and fitness progress?

The BodyMedia FIT Armbands are comprised of four sensors, a microprocessor, storage chip, USB port and radio transmitter and they all work together to detect three fundamental body signals. They sense heat, sweat and motion. Heat is sensed by a pair of thermistors, as the temperature at the skin surface and in the air just beneath the Armband cover a short distance away: Sweat is sensed by to galvanic skin response sensors as electrical conductivity of the skin and; Motion is sensed by a three-axis accelerometer as body movement in three directions.  Inside the Armband’s microprocessor the data received from each sensor are transduced to digital bits which are compiled, compared and correlated within the BodyMedia algorithm and sent to the onboard storage chip once a minute.   The correlated heat, sweat, and motion data sets serve as a digital fingerprint of calories burned.

Q: How does quality of sleep impact weight loss? How does BodyMedia monitor users’ sleep patterns?

A: The body produces hormone Leptin, produced in fat cells, signals to your body you’re full, causing the “satisfied” feeling you experience after a meal. It also produces Ghrelin, produced in the stomach and pancreas, does the opposite. It signals to your brain it’s time to eat. Your body regulates these hormones while you sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re left with high levels of Ghrelin, telling your brain you’re hungry, and low levels of Leptin, leaving you feeling unsatisfied, even after a meal. Adequate sleep helps your body maintain proper levels of these hormones.

The BodyMedia FIT activity and sleep monitor automatically captures over 5,000 readings every minute including calories burned, activity intensity levels and sleep quality and quantity to give you a complete overview of the key factors impacting weight loss. Once you understand where your sleep and activity levels are deficient, you can make adjustments to improve them. Helping you achieve realistic and healthy weight loss is BodyMedia FIT’s goal.

Q: How does the cross platform integration of BodyMedia’s range of offerings affect users’ experience in achieving weight loss and healthy life style goals?

The BodyMedia FIT system works by itself or by being incorporated into another fitness/weight loss/behavior modification program (24 hr, Jenny Craig, Jillian Michaels).  Clinical studies have shown that the BodyMedia system actually enhances the weight loss of other programs and the constant, regular feedback enhances the retention rate of their members.

Q: Users are not strictly limited to wearing the BodyMedia FIT Armband to enjoy the company’s offerings. There are also apps available for Android, iPhone, and PanasonicViera Connect. Do these apps offer the same type of data analysis and the same immersive experience?

A: BodyMedia FIT Armbands work in conjunction with the online software and apps – the app and software cannot be used on their own and the Armband cannot be used without the software output.  BodyMedia FIT lets you take fitness body-monitoring wherever you want to go with mobile apps. Using BodyMedia FIT’s free mobile apps, users of the CORE and Advantage Armbands can log food on the go and view snapshots of their most recent Activity Manager Dashboard. Users of the LINK* Armband, our Bluetooth®-powered Armband, can view their Dashboard with real-time caloric burn and activity data and can create personalized workouts based upon caloric, activity or step goals. And the LINK apps power you through your workout with tunes from your phone.

Q: Can you share BodyMedia’s plans for the rest of 2012?

A: The patch solution, expected to launch in 2012, will utilize similar sensor technology developed for BodyMedia armband-based body monitoring systems that have been successfully used for weight loss support since 2001. The smaller form factor, shorter-term use and significantly lower price point than the armband will make the patch useful to introduce prospective armband users to the value of continuous body monitoring for weight management, while also paving the way for new uses by consumers, wellness counselors and healthcare professionals.

The disposable patch solution will:

  • Track key lifestyle indicators such as calorie burn, steps taken, activity levels and sleep patterns through multiple sensors that collect more than 5,000 data points per minute.
  • Enable that data to be uploaded to a computer or mobile device for use as a guideline to determine the need for behavioral modification to promote weight loss and other wellness efforts.
  • Be worn on the back of the left tricep, providing an inconspicuous solution similar to a large bandage with no wires required to transmit data.
  • Remain in place for up to seven days even while showering and exercising through use of Avery Dennison Medical Solutions’ splash-proof adhesive chemistries and production technologies.

We are also launching a Bluetooth upload, with enhancements to feedback system including feedback the in mobile app.

More information about BodyMedia and their offerings can be found on BodyMedia.com

With MobileHealthExpo 2011 less than a week away, MedHealthWorld is continuing to interview Expo speakers and presenters to get an exclusive first glance at their speeches and presentations. We spoke with Unitech‘s Jamie Shipley who provided some insight on why RFID should become commonplace in hospitals and healthcare centers and the importance of using ruggedized devices.

Unitech's Jamie Shipley

Can you please give a brief description of Unitech and its offerings? What are the benefits that you provide to health conscious consumers and healthcare providers?

Unitech makes rugged automatic data collection devices, including handheld mobile computers. For the healthcare industry, Unitech manufactures a handheld mobile computer and a handheld USB barcode scanner.

We provide the benefit of being able to track items with a computer in your hand and scan barcodes that quickly input error-free data.  For example, Nurses use our handheld computers to track not only patients with wristbands but also drugs assigned to be administered to those patients, to make sure their rights are protected and that no harm is done.

Now more than ever in the healthcare industry, we’ve had more focus on tracking and metrics and electronic health records. How do you feel that the emphasis on monitoring all facets of the process has affected Unitech’s business?

We recognize the trend and we are a part of that trend.  We fit very well into that idea of gathering and recording accurate data into a patient’s electronic health record.

One of the key themes of the Mobile Health Expo is the convergence of mobile technology with healthcare. How do you feel that Unitech’s solutions represent this convergence?

Well, in order to have mobile technology you have to have hardware, and hardware has to connect to data remotely. We’re all walking around with our cell phones and we’re able to use GPS and aps to find out, for example, where are the best places to eat. There are hardware form factors that are good for that scenario, and there are other form factors better for when you’re walking around a hospital scanning medications and accidently dropping it all the time.  Unitech’s hardware is an answer to that second scenario: a ruggedized, antimicrobial-coated computer that runs the Windows operating system on a QVGA screen.

You’ll be giving a presentation on Improving Safety and Efficiency Through The Use of Mobile Technology. In the presentation, you intend to focus on RFID. Are you going to be discussing Unitech products or solutions? Can you give any sort of preview?

I’m going to be specifically talking about a case study. On our handheld computer, we have the option of including an RFID reader. RFID is exciting because it’s not reading line of a sight, it’s reading field of range. Instead of a barcode, you’re able to read an ID tag that is within the range of the reader. In healthcare, we often don’t want to walk into a room and read the tag of everybody in the room, we want to deliberately be able to read the tag that’s on a wrist band. I’m going to talk about how we implemented that technology.

What types of customers are you hoping to attract in the next two years?

Unitech is just one piece of the puzzle. We have the hardware, but we don’t have the whole solution. We partner with companies called ISVs – Independent Software Vendors – and solution integrators. Integrators might have their own software or sometimes they’ll integrate with ISVs. Knowing that we don’t have the total solution but that we make up a big chunk of the solution, our primary customers are the integrators and then they sell to into healthcare.

Ideally we’re selling to hospitals and pharmacies so that they can save patients’ lives. Also, consider, in many ways, donated blood is just like any other asset, but it’s a very protected and regulated asset. Unitech is working on a project with a blood center to track blood from vein to vein: from donation all the way to where it has been transfused.

Beyond your work at Unitech, what developments in mobile health and mobile technology have been the most significant in recent memory?

To me, it seems like Moore’s law is really apparent. The inexpensiveness of being able to have so much computing power in the palm of your hand is really what makes all of this work. Having that central processor unit be faster and faster and having a screen show you so much and in so much detail is an advancements that makes all of this possible.

Have you seen any different uses or contexts for Unitech products in the last few years?

This question makes me the think of the conversations had over the past year where we’ve compared our devices to consumer devices. They’ve really heated up because our industry really has to defend the position on why it’s important to have a ruggedized handheld computer as opposed to a consumer grade handheld. Then we have to defend why an operating system like we have is better than considering iOS or Android or Windows’ new Phone operating system. Although there’s interest around Android because of its open architecture, it just hasn’t happened with the industry leaders. Most Enterprise system integrators have developed applications for the Windows Mobile platform and it’s because that operating system is so good at security, ease of programming for, and customization. Our ruggedized units cost twice as much as an iPad but they will not break easily so they pay for themselves.

Do you foresee any developments or changes happening in the US healthcare market in the next two years and if so, what are they. Where would you like to see things going in the healthcare market?

It’s been said that only 30% of hospitals are using barcodes to positively identify patients. That number has to be 100%. I think, based on everything I’ve read and the tradeshows I’ve been to, and also based on the government’s Meaningful Use guidelines, I think that that number will increase. It will not happen as quickly as I would like; but in the next five years, we should be very close to 100%.

sprint-logo

Sprint made a strong statement about its connected health priorities when Dan Hesse became the first CEO of a wireless carrier to deliver a keynote talk at HIMSS in March 2010.  Hesse emphasized the gap between the potential for wireless technology to transform healthcare and the actual rate of adoption of advanced mobile health programs, saying “If I had to pick the one industry facing the biggest gap between the need for change and the use of wireless technology to support that change, it would be healthcare.”  It  has been over a year since that keynote and MedHealth World checked in Tim Donahue, Sprint Vice President of Solution Sales, and Tina Stoufer, Healthcare Marketing Manager at Sprint, to find out what Sprint has been doing to “close the gap” with innovative wireless health programs and partnerships.

MedHealth: What are some of the most important healthcare initiatives that Sprint has undertaken in the year since Hesse delivered his HIMSS keynote talk?

Tim Donahue: We are involved in a broad range of wireless health solutions from telehealth to patient monitoring at home to mobile health apps to providing high speed wireless infrastructure for hospitals and clinics and linking smart devices for doctors and other care providers. Our advancement in 4G connectivity has given us a unique ability to provide solutions in the healthcare space.  In particular, in the past year we have launched many partnership programs focused on disease management and better ways to help patients with chronic disease to stay at home with wireless access to health services including the ability to have remote video conference calls with care providers for seniors and their families.  We are helping to provide wearable health monitors to cost-effectively manage chronic disease and enabling telehealth programs.  I am seeing a proliferation of mobile and wireless health options and I expect that this growth will continue.  Today everyone wants their data and services and apps available in real time without being constrained by wires or location and that includes health management services.

So Sprint is working in multiple sectors of the healthcare industry to provide the solutions that meet this demand.  For example, we understand that in any large hospital, the medical specialists and care providers have traditionally been tied to computers and medical equipment when reviewing patient records and diagnostic data.  But with 4G connections we can light up tablets and smart phones to support high resolution 3D rendering of diagnostic data and images.

One of Sprint’s health partners, Calgary Scientific, has developed Resolution MD Mobile to provide neurologist with real-time images and video on Android smartphones That kind of mobile access is changing the dynamic of patient care by  helping to liberate diagnostic data from the machines that generate it and putting it into the hands of medical specialists who can use to improve collaboration and options for patient care.

MHW: If you had to pick just one wireless health program that is moving healthcare toward transformation, what would it be and why?

TD: I think one of the fundamental game changers in healthcare is wireless disease management and healthcare management.  When you think about the enormous cost of care associated with chronic disease and the need to reduce those costs while still meeting the needs of an aging population, wireless and home health monitoring will be a major part of the solution.  Our current system is structured to force patients to go out to doctor’s offices and hospitals for routine care – even elderly and frail patients who would be much better off getting care at home using telehealth options.  I see wireless enabling much more effective chronic illness management with a patient interface and tools that make it really easy for patients to get medical monitoring and support at home without having to go to a medical facility or even to many in-person doctor appointments.  The home health strategy works across multiple health needs for many medical problems.  Sprint is making a big investment in the healthcare space to partner with companies who deliver the best and easiest to use home and wireless health solutions.

Sprint’s partnership with IDEAL LIFE has led to the extensive suite of home health monitoring devices with wireless connectivity that we announced at HIMSS 2011.  IDEAL LIFE provides a wireless gateway that transmits health data collected from multiple health monitoring devices over the Sprint network.  That means that glucose meters, heart rate, oxygen level, weight, and other vital signs are collected and reported in a really easy and seamless way that fits into the individual’s lifestyle and habits.

Another Sprint M2M partner is a company called Reflection Solutions.  Reflection provides a wireless monitoring solution is for people in need of some extra monitoring, such as someone the early stages of dementia in as well as patients with a chronic illness.  Providing this type of unobtrusive monitoring allows them to remain at home and remain as independent as possible  and gives families more peace of mind knowing that their loved one is being monitored.

A key feature of the Reflection monitor is that it looks like a wristwatch rather than a medical device making it more comfortable to wear and more likely to be worn consistently.  The watch integrates with a normal home lifestyle while it monitors all movements and reports on anything out of the ordinary such as instability, falls and wandering outside of the home area.  Using these M2M health devices to avoid hospitalization and emergency health intervention is a huge money saver as well as a dramatic improvement in overall quality of life for many people.

MHW: Do you have any programs underway to work with mobile health developers to design and deploy innovative health apps for consumers and for home health?

TD: We very much pride ourselves on being the most open network for developers and partners.  Sprint has been pursuing this open strategy for more than 4 years.  We want to be the first place where app partners and developers think about when they have an exciting wireless health solution, including embedded wireless M2M apps.  To encourage and facilitate integration with the Sprint network, we launched an M2M collaboration center last year in Burlingame, CA.  It’s a place where developers can come in for free to work with wireless M2M experts and get access to our testing platforms.

MHW: What trends do you see over the next 2-3 years in terms of the types of healthcare programs that will be widely adopted?

TD: I think we are going to see a huge adoption of wireless health management tools and devices.  This is a different and potentially an even broader area of impact from chronic disease management because it’s universal – -every single individual has a strong interest in staying as healthy as possible. This trend will create even more demand for monitoring all aspects of our lives that impact individual fitness and help consumers to optimize their health.  Wireless devices will be monitoring and recording personal health data, from the number of calories we burn every day, to our resting and exercising heart rate, to our sleep patterns – and unlike today’s monitoring, the data will be integrated in a way that provides smart feedback about the state of an individual’s overall health. This trend will generate a huge demand for connected health devices that consumers use to stay healthy rather than waiting until they develop a chronic disease or need emergency medical treatment and hospitalization.  Imagine how much impact this will have when hundreds of millions of consumers start to use this type of data to monitor and manage their own health, with their care providers making proactive recommendations as doctors compare data to project long term trends and flag certain vital signs to spot potential problems before they turn into chronic diseases.

On the hospital side of health care, I believe that literally the infrastructure will open up –scanning, MRI, hospital complex will be enabled in a new way for sharing and untethered options.  We are thinking of a near term future in which clinicians are equipped to consult and respond with a faster level of service based on 4G options that deliver high resolution scans and visualization of patient data right to the mobile device they are carrying with them.  Calgary Scientific is an example of that type of innovation.  The industry is just starting to figure out what innovations can be achieved in the quality and productivity of health care delivery based on this type of real time, mobile  access to patient and diagnostic data being available in many different locations according to need and not tied down to the point at which it is collected and stored.

VisionCare’s implantable miniature telescope, which is designed for treatment of patients with end-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD), was recently approved by the FDA.  Approval of the visual prosthetic device followed successful clinical trials in which patients obtained “clinically meaningful gains in visual acuity and quality of life.”  The National Eye Institute estimates that over 1.7 million Americans over age 50 suffer vision loss from advanced AMD.

The device is smaller than a pea, and is implanted in one eye in an outpatient procedure.  The telescope renders enlarged central vision images over a wide area of the retina, and the magnification reduces the impact of the blind spot caused by AMD, improving visual acuity.  The non-operated eye provides peripheral vision for mobility and orientation.

Clinical trial results for the implantable miniature telescope appeared in Ophthalmology, the American Journal of Ophthalmology,and  Archives of Ophthalmology.  The company plans a post-approval study to monitor patient outcomes under commercial conditions.  In addition, a smaller study will follow clinical trial patients for two more years.  The principal investigator is Oliver D. Schein, M.D., M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Via VisionCare

Since launching its healthcare business division in 2009 and demonstrating a prototype of its robotic home health assistant at TEDMED the same year, iRobot has been relatively quiet about its plans for commercialization of robot-assisted healthcare. But it has been active behind the scenes in patenting key aspects of its plans; as noted in our last article, iRobot received a patent in May 2010 on the invention of a very capable Companion Robot for Personal Interaction.

We have already discussed how the iRobot patent describes methods of the Companion Robot interacting and communicating with human healthcare recipients to create a trusted relationship. Even more interesting, is how the iRobot patent positions its Companion Robot to take over the hotly contested role of integrated communications platform for multiple smart devices in a connected home. While most analysts are looking to smart energy, home automation or smartphone vendors to take the lead in integrating the proliferation of wireless devices in the typical home, some authors have predicted that connected home health providers will play an important role. In her recently published book Smart Products, Smarter Services, Mary Cronin (NewsAlert) devotes an entire chapter to the smart home. Her conclusion is as follows:

“Most of the elements of a connected smart home are available as separate smart products and networking components. But the three industry sectors that would benefit most from creating an integrated smart ecosystem for home networking, the entertainment, health, and energy sectors, are competing with each other and contending with unresolved business challenges.”

At first it might not seem that a robot healthcare companion would be a leading candidate to become a trusted smart home integration platform, but this is quite clearly what iRobot has in mind.

The patent introduces the topic of smart home integration by noting that provisions are made for plugging a wide range of health assisting appliances into the Companion Robot. In addition to providing power, network access, security and mobility services to these devices, the robot gives these devices a common, compelling and trusted – dare we say it – human interface.

Besides supporting other home health devices, the iRobot patent describes how the Companion Robot can recognize other home devices such as televisions, DVD players, lighting, fans, cable boxes and air conditioners, retrieve their command codes from a central database and allow the resident to control these devices through the robot, using the same UI that has become familiar through repeated health-related interactions with the robot.

Moving beyond simply controlling non-health home devices, the patent envisions scenarios in which the robot provides assistance in paying bills, reducing clutter, interacting with contractors and door-to-door salesmen, conducting housing safety inspections, and accompanying the resident on shopping trips. The robot prepares for this level of assistance by keeping track of in-home activities and resident behavior patterns. It tracks prior shopping selections and in-house food inventories through scanning bar codes and storing information about expiration dates and the human resident’s normal eating patterns. Like a smart shopper, the robot knows when the milk in the refrigerator is past its use-by date and needs to be replaced—and with the appropriate trusted connections, it can add such items to the shopping list.

It might seem like a step too far for a Robot Companion that is still in development to take on the critical role of an integration platform for the connected home. But none of the other contenders, from Cisco to Microsoft to more recent home integrations entrants such as Apple (News Alert) and Google have managed to create a compelling integration offer. Why not a trusted healthcare robot?

iRobot was founded in 1990 and is now a $300 million publically traded company. The company started modestly with home cleaning robots such as the Roomba and the Scooba and through first-hand market experience with these products accumulated a deep understanding of home robotics. The iRobot Companion Robot for Personal Interaction is based on a broad vision for smart home integration. It remains to be seen whether that visionary patent will eventually be backed up with marketable products and an ability to execute.

ALR Technologies Inc. recently filed a 510(k) application for a web-based healthcare monitoring system for patients with diabetes, called the Health-e-Connect (HeC) System.  ALR also announced results of a clinical evaluation, in which patients using the HeC system showed statistically significant improvement in A1c hemoglobin levels compared to patients using standard monitoring and feedback techniques.

The HeC system is designed to improve communication and monitoring of patients’ health management programs by incorporating data uploaded from patients’ glucometers.  Providers can then compare user compliance and performance to pre-set targets. The system allows data transfer from several different glucometers, including models made by Abbott, Bayer,  Johnson & Johnson and Roche.

As explained on the ALR Technologies website, the HeC system features a web-based app that allows providers to set patient monitoring parameters, as well as analyze patient data and send reminders or messages. The system uses windows-based software to facilitate uploading of monitored data, and employs a portable patient communication device, which could be the company’s “ALRT Constant Health Companion” or any mobile phone.

After the system is set up, it can validate uploaded data and compare it to the health care provider’s programmed limits, alerting the provider when the data is out of range. Otherwise, a pre-programmed message is sent back to the patient using the patient communication device.

ALR Technologies is planning to expand their platform in the future to cover patients with other chronic diseases besides diabetes.

Via Marketwire.

In this recent Ted Global talk, Tan Le of Emotiv Systems demonstrates an innovative EEG headset that can communicate thoughts, emotions, and facial expressions to computers and other machinery. The 14 channel headset requires no scalp preparation or conductive gel, and could be sold for a few hundred dollars rather than the thousands that traditional EEG equipment costs.

Le explains some of the challenges that had to be overcome in the development of the headset: for example, because the cortical folding in each individual’s brain is unique, surface electrical impulses are hard to interpret. To overcome this difficulty, the Emotiv headset uses an algorithm that unfolds the cortex, allowing it to map signals closer to the source so that it can work across large populations.

Because a leveling system is built into the software system, users can train it to differentiate between distinct thoughts, which can then be mapped to various platforms and applications. Besides the obvious potential of the technology for gaming applications, the headset can be used by the disabled to move wheelchairs and operate other machinery. Tan Le discusses these and other exciting possibilities in this July 2010 TEDGlobal talk.

Vaccine patches containing hundreds of micron-sized needles could become a painless alternative to conventional hypodermic needles, and could allow patients to self-administer vaccinations during pandemics. The microneedles dissolve in bodily fluids when applied to the skin, carrying vaccine with them. Only the water-soluble backing remains, and it can be easily discarded–unlike conventional hypodermic needles.

The dissolving microneedle vaccination patch is not quite as far along as another hypodermic alternative we recently reported on; unlike Bioject’s intradermal needle-free injection system, which performed well delivering polio vaccine to human infants, the microneedle patch is only at the point of being tested on mice.  However, results looked promising; researchers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology tested found that the dissolving microneedles appeared to provide improved immunity to influenza compared to vaccinations administered with hypodermic needles.

According to Richard Compans, a microbiology and immunology professor at Emory, “the skin is a particularly attractive site for immunization because it contains an abundance of the types of cells that are important in generating immune responses to vaccines.”

The microneedle study was reported in the online version of Nature Medicine.  (Via Georgia Tech)

The Department of Defense doesn’t just build advanced weapons; DARPA, the research arm of Defense Sciences, has multiple R&D programs in the biological sciences. These programs include a strong focus on Restorative Biomedical Technologies, and the development of advanced new techniques to repair brain, tissue and other combat injuries.  DARPA’s ambitious Revolutionizing Prosthetics program aims to create “a fully functional (motor and sensory) upper limb that responds to direct neural control.”  In other words, it is developing a prosthetic arm and flexible hand that respond to brain signals to initiate and control natural movements like grasping to create more dexterity.  These prosthetic arms are designed to be sensitive to external feedback such as touch, weight and environmental factors. They will rely on micro-arrays, implanted into the brain, that record signals and transmit them to the device.

Human testing is about to begin. According to a recent article in Wired, DARPA is funding a team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University to manage the next stage of development. Johns Hopkins scientists plan to test the prosthetic in five patients within the next two years.

Related DARPA biomedical programs are investigating technologies to fully restore complex tissues (muscle, nerves, skin, etc.) after traumatic injury. Via DARPA and Wired.

A new radiation mechanism that operates in the range between microwave and infrared frequencies known as the “terahertz gap” has been developed by Japanese researchers and a University of Central Florida physicist Richard Klemm. This innovative radiation mechanism is similar to what is used now to treat cancer, but can target cancer and other diseases more effectively, reducing impact on healthy body parts. “It’s a small range, but these frequencies are the important ones absorbed by biochemical molecules,” Klemm said. Until now, scientists have not had much success using terahertz frequencies.

Instead of simply using radiation to kill tumors, this technique may offer a more direct way track down what’s ailing a patient. “Our mechanism could be used to detect the amino acids in DNA, which may be linked to specific diseases. That means it’s a good diagnostic tool.”

The potential of this technique goes beyond medicine.  The radiation mechanism could also be used to find and destroy specific chemicals, for example, to clean up oil spills.  Or the technique could detect explosive powder and prevent terrorist attacks.

Study results were published in the physics journal Physical Review Letters. (Via University of Central Florida.)

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