November 2007

WORLD

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Nobel Prize for Medicine 2007

U.S. citizens Mario R. Capecchi and Oliver Smithies and Sir Martin J. Evans of Britain won the 2007 Nobel Prize in medicine. They were honored for a technique called gene targeting, which lets scientists inactivate or modify particular genes in mice. This in turn lets them study how those genes affect health and disease.

The widely used process has helped scientists use mice to study heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cystic fibrosis and other diseases. To use this technique, researchers introduce a genetic change into mouse embryonic stem cells. These cells are then injected into mouse embryos. The mice born from these embryos are bred with others, to produce offspring with altered genes.
 
The citation said that gene targeting has pervaded all fields of biomedicine. Its impact on the understanding of gene function and its benefits to mankind will continue to increase over many years to come.

IBM's 3D Avatar to Help Doctors Visualize Patient Records and Improve Care

IBM researchers have developed a prototype visualization software that allows doctors to interact with medical data the same way they interact with their patients, that is by looking at them. Created at IBM's Zurich Research Lab, the technology uses an avatar – a 3D representation of the human body – to allow doctors to visualize patient medical records in an entirely new way.

Called the Anatomic and Symbolic Mapper Engine (ASME), this innovative visualization method allows a doctor to click with the computer mouse on a particular part of the avatar “body” to trigger a search of medical records to retrieve relevant information.

The ASME system will allow doctors to “click” on different parts of the 3-D avatar of the human body – for example, the spine – and instantly see all the available medical history and information related to that patient's spine, including text entries, lab results and medical images such as radiographs or MRIs.

First Zero-Gravity Surgical Robot Demonstration

SRI International, a nonprofit R&D organization, has developed a teleoperated surgical robot that can work in a zero-gravity environment.

The SRI robotic surgical system is designed to be stored in a very compact space for space travel, that astronauts can reassemble for use in the event of illness requiring surgical intervention.

The system was successfully tested underwater in the Aquarius undersea laboratory off the coast of Florida earlier this year. A Canadian surgeon successfully utilized the device to perform a vascular suturing operation from fifteen hundred miles away.

Now SRI researchers are testing the device in the extreme environment of zero gravity. The tests will be done over a period of four days aboard a NASA C-9 aircraft. The plane undergoes a series of parabolic flight maneuvers that simulates, for a brief period, the microgravity environment of space.

SRI-developed software is intended to help the robot compensate for errors in movement that can occur in moments of turbulence or transitions in gravitational field strength. The experiment will compare the same surgical tasks performed by a physician who is physically present on the plane with those performed remotely using the teleoperated robot.

Pfizer with largest online physician community of U.S. to Improve Patient Care

Pfizer Inc and Sermo, the largest online physician community in the US, have announced a strategic collaboration designed to redefine the way physicians in the U.S. and the healthcare industry work together to improve patient care. Sermo is a Web-based community where physicians share observations from daily practice, discuss emerging trends and provide new insights into medications, devices and treatments.

Through this collaboration, Sermo's community of physicians will have access to Pfizer's clinical content in tangible ways that allow for the transparent and efficient exchange of knowledge. With access to comprehensive and up-to-date information on Pfizer products, physicians will be able to find the data they need, when they need it, to make informed decisions.

Pfizer, working together with Sermo's physician community and other Sermo partners, plans to pursue a number of key objectives through this collaboration, such as: discover, with physicians, how best to transform the way medical information is exchanged in the fast-moving social media environment and create an open and transparent discussion through the innovative channel offered by online exchange; and develop a productive exchange between pharmaceutical professionals and the Sermo community. 

RFID to track dementia patients in Luxembourg

A luxembourg hospital is now tagging patients suffering from dementia with RFID solutions from AeroScout to ensure they remain safe within hospital grounds and are in close range of nurses and caregivers.

The hospital is using AeroScout's T2 tags, which has about four years of battery life. These are worn by patients or even attached to hospital equipment. They emit a signal which is detected and accurately located by the hospital's Cisco Unified Wireless Network.

Location and status data from these tags is then sent to AeroScout's MobileView software and integrated with interactive maps and detailed information. This allows the hospital to search for and identify at-risk patients in real-time, over any web browser. The AeroScout system can also trigger automated alerts based on movement and location, immediately sending an email, page or voice message to staff when a patient leaves a designated area.

European Consumers Seeking Health and Pharmaceutical Information

According to a recent study by Manhattan Research, European consumers are more likely to have researched health information online than they are to have participated in online dating, online gaming or even online bill pay.

Furthermore, in the absence of direct-to-consumer advertising, or local product.com destinations for European consumers, consumers are actually going to the corporate sites of pharmaceutical companies for health and pharmaceutical information. In fact, an estimated 21 million consumers report visiting corporate sites in the past 12 months across the 10 countries surveyed in the research. Pfizer, Bayer and GSK are the top three corporate sites visited by consumers specifically for health and treatment information.

Consumers are also researching a wide range of diseases online. Consumers are actively seeking information about depression and targeted topics such as cancer, which has a relatively low population of patients compared to the population seeking information online. Patient wellness can be dealt with in an easy and affordable solution.

French MOD Selects Vizada For Telemedicine Program

The French Ministry of Defense has selected Vizada to provide mobile satellite communications to enable military surgeons to transmit images to medical staff in a different site or country.

Vizada, formerly France Telecom Mobile Satellite Communications, is using a solution based on Inmarsat's Broadband Global Area Network  (BGAN) system. The system uses simultaneous IP BGAN links, a 256 kilobit per second (kbps) streaming connection to perform the videoconferencing and relay images from the operating table to the medical staff and a background IP connection with speeds of up to 492 kbps to send medical files, analysis reports, X-rays, photos and scans. The IP traffic is relayed to Vizada's ground station and leased line to the hospital.

Space Technology for TB Detection 

New research on detecting tuberculosis (TB) using space technology has underlined the relevance that space technologies can have for other areas such as, healthcare. The technology in question is a spectrometer developed for the European Space Agency's Rosetta comet-chaser and the Beagle 2 mission to Mars.

TB is thought to kill two million people every year, mainly in developing countries, where resources are restricted, TB detection is usually carried out using a smear microscopy of sputum samples. This is not only a very labour-intensive process, but also has a low sensitivity.

Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to conduct scientific measurements on the surface of a comet. The Ptolemy instrument on board will analyse small pieces of the comet's nucleus in order to identify what it is made from.

A team of researchers have received funding to develop a portable mass spectrometer (an optical instrument used to measure the properties of light) for diagnosing TB. This team will now adapt the technology used on Rosetta to create a spectrometer capable of detecting TB in sputum with greater sensitivity and speed than a smear microscopy. The process could also be automated, removing the need for skilled technicians and a specially equipped laboratory.

Quest Diagnostics joins e-prescribing initiative

Quest Diagnostics announced recently that it has joined the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NePSI), and will offer physicians access to its Care360 Physician Portal and results capabilities.

NePSI is a coalition of technology companies and healthcare organizations dedicated to improving patient safety by providing free access to simple, safe and secure electronic prescribing for every physician in America.

Quest Diagnostics will provide eRx NOW, a web-based NePSI electronic prescribing application from Chicago-based Allscripts, access to pending lab results and its Care360 Physician Portal. Physicians will be able to order lab tests and view, flow and graph laboratory results, as well as run analyses on patient populations.

Quest Diagnostics provides more than 115,000 physicians nationwide with its connectivity products. The company believes that its large customer base will help drive market penetration and physician utilization of electronic prescribing.

Physicians to Benefit from Medical Software Advice Website

Software Advice recently launched its Medical Software Advice website: www.softwareadvice.com/medical, a free resource designed to help prospective medical software buyers narrow down the right technology for their practices. An innovative service that seeks to help physician practices find the right software for EMRs, medical billing, patient scheduling and practice management.

It attempts to bring clarity to the market by matching physicians with the right systems for their practices, as also helping software vendors reach the customer segments they can serve best.

 Software Advice's proprietary matching algorithm recommends software products based on each practice's medical specialty, size and functional requirements. This assures that rather than taking weeks to sort through search engine results, directory listings and trade magazines, buyers can now generate a highly relevant “short list” of software products in minutes. And all this is done free of charge.

Participating vendors serve a wide range of practice sizes, including solo practitioners, group practices and managed service organizations (MSOs), as well as medical specialties ranging from family practices to bariatric medicine. Participating vendors also cover the full range of application capabilities, including EMRs, medical billing, patient scheduling and complete practice management systems.

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