The world of innovative medical devices is fascinating in that it is the intersection of engineering and biomedical science. The intrigue of invention meets the life-saving, humanist potential of medicine. Social and scientific progress could be measured by the types of medical technologies we employ: radiography, nuclear technology, antibiotics, vaccines, pacemakers, etc… Innovations in medical technology set the pace for wider change. With this in mind, let’s take a look at ten recently developed or developing medical devices that improve the quality of life of their patients.

The device sits under a patient's skull and tracks brain activity.
Subdermal Device

1. Epilepsy treated with a zap. A subdermal implant helps treat epileptic episodes by monitoring the brain. It checks for the abnormal signs that cause seizures and it prevents them from escalating by sending signals via implanted wires to the parts of the brain responsible. The RNS Stimulator senses when seizures are about to begin, and takes them out at their source.

The Symphony tCGM biosensor from Echo Therapeutics

Symphony Biosensor

2. Needle-free diabetes care. The bio-sensor patch placed on the skin seems like the direction diabetes care is headed. Instead of using needles to test for glucose, this device brushes away the first layer of skin so that blood chemistry can be read by a sensor. Diabetics are spared the annoyance and discomfort of constant blood drawing with this device, which is still in development.

3. Contact lens disperses medicine doses. For sufferers of glaucoma, prolonged-delivery eye drops are a hassle. A new type of contact lens is being tested that delivers the drug, intended to relieve ocular pressure, through a polymer film. The placement of the film is such that the patient is able to see through the center of the lens with uninhibited vision. The lens can be adapted to treat near and farsightedness as well.

4. Advances in prosthetic limbs make life easier for amputees. Prosthetic technology has come a long way since the peg leg. From legs and hands controlled by the brain to artificial skin that can simulate the sense of touch by sending feedback signals to the brain, scientists and engineers are on the way to developing artificial limbs that are as good and sometimes even better than the originals. For example, scientists have recently created 3-D printed ears that look real and allow for better hearing than regular ears.

Prosthetic leg
Prosthetic limbs have come a long way

5. Gene therapy could treat blindnessPhotoreceptor cells, which lie along the retina, sometimes die due to faulty genes. This common cause of blindness can be treated by injecting fluid to lift a layer of cells and, after DNA is added, healthy cells are encouraged to grow and the rest of the cells are kept from dying. This and other gene therapy treatments are an encouraging branch of biomedical studies.

Explanation of how gene therapy could be used to prevent blindness
How gene therapy could be used to prevent blindness

6. Biomedical vest shows heart-related problem spots. The device uses 250 electrodes to detect extra heartbeats and other heart dysfunctions. It’s particularly helpful because it helps doctors pinpoint where heart problems are without the need for an invasive treatment (in many cases, wires have to be placed inside the heart without the benefit of the vest).

250 electrode vest
250 electrode vest helps doctors detect abnormal heart rhythms

7. A robot helps children stay calm in the hospital. In France, a new technology in patient care involves an interactive robot to help children through medical processes, particularly vaccinations. Children can react to the fear of shots in any number of ways, from screaming to vomiting, to running out of the clinic. This robot is designed to provide stimulation and comfort for kids, encouraging them to interact with objects on the table and speaking to them, drawing their attention away from the procedure at hand.

Soother-bot distracts children from pain in hospitals
Soother-bot distracts children from pain in hospitals

8. Smoking cessation technology aided by magnetic fieldsIt might sound like pseudoscience, but researchers claim that certain types of magnetic fields are changing the activity of brain cells and as a result helping smokers kick the habit. A device placed over the cranium provides TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), affecting the regions of the brain that relate to the smoking ‘cue’ which tells smokers they need to go light up.

9. Upgraded ultrasound treatments help cancer patients. For children who suffer from cancerous growths in the liver, the type of radiation treatment they’re given can mean more bouts with cancer down the line. It’s particularly difficult to determine whether growths are benign in the liver, but with a contrasting agent injected into the site of the ultrasound scan, doctors are now able to get a clear idea of whether or not the spot is benign. This can help prevent extraneous radiation treatments and spare the child of more difficulty later on.

10. Mind-Controlled exoskeleton helps the disabled walkInterfacing directly with the brain, this device worn outside of the body helps restore limb function in patients who could not previously stand or walk. There are a number of brain-control approaches that are currently being developed, all which sound like they’re straight from the pages of your favorite science fiction novel.

Mindwalker project - an integrated exoskeleton
Mindwalker project – an integrated exoskeleton

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