The pace at which new inventions are impacting our everyday lives is increasing at lightning speeds undoubtedly. The latest technological healthcare inventions are starting to allow healthcare practitioners to offer cheaper, faster and more efficient patient care than ever before, which is certainly a step in the right direction.
The healthcare industry has long been overburdened by a slow-moving innovation due to the complexity of the medical ecosystem, but thanks to the latest technologies, the industry has been finally seeing some far-reaching changes.
Of the many disruptions reaching the masses this year, here are some of the biggest inventions in healthcare technology with far-reaching impacts:
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The company Oxford Nanopore invented MinION, a DNA sequencer the size and weight of a deck of cards, reads DNA as it’s pulled through around 500 nanoscopic pores by measuring an electrical signal produced by each DNA letter. The size and design of the device, which has taken 12 years and $200 million to develop, enable sequencing to be done in remote locations. Especially useful for identifying and studying bacteria and viruses, it was used in Brazil in 2016 to sequence the genome of mosquitoes infected with the Zika virus, providing clues about the epidemic’s origins.
Ionis Pharmaceuticals, along with Biogen, developed Spinraza, a novel type of drug called an RNA therapeutic. Approved in 2016, it combats spinal muscular atrophy, a condition difficult to treat successfully with existing options. The drug is a chemically enhanced strand of RNA that is matched up with a mirror copy of the genetic messenger molecule in a patient’s cells, allowing the patient’s body to correctly assemble a protein that nerve cells need. Other Ionis drugs are being tested against five additional rare but severe genetic disorders.
The pharma giant – Merck has one of the most successful immunotherapies on the market. Following a big jump in the number of lung cancer patients being tested to see if they would benefit from the treatment, sales are predicted to grow significantly. Keytruda has been approved in testing in some people who have not had chemotherapy, putting it a step ahead of rivals in immunotherapy. The company’s estimated revenue this year is $39 billion, buoyed by sales of Keytruda.
The leader in commercializing the rapid sequencing of human DNA, Illumina reported a steep drop in sales last fall, suggesting that the market for its sequencing machines might be saturated. Three months later it unveiled a new machine, NovaSeq, that is apparently capable of sequencing as many as 48 entire human genomes in two and a half days – and someday pushing the cost of sequencing down to $100, potentially low enough to significantly expand what researchers can learn about diseases.
23andMe, a pioneer of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, markets genetic reports on risks for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and eight other conditions. After extracting DNA from the cells in saliva samples sent in by customers, the company uses a DNA-genotyping chip made by Illumina to capture features related to health and ancestry – information customers are then able to access online. 23andMe now has more than two million customers worldwide, and its products have been used in a number of research projects, including studies of female fertility, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and even nail-biting.
T-Cell Cancer Therapy
Kite Pharma, the immunotherapy company is taking the body’s T cells, which naturally fight infections, and engineering them to fight cancer. It is farthest along with its therapy for aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with more than a third of one study’s participants showing no sign of disease six months after treatment. There were two deaths associated with the therapy based on its known side effects – approximately 2 percent of study participants – but it seems to be nearing FDA approval. 39 percent of study participants very sick with lymphoma showed no sign of the disease six months after a single treatment with Kite’s therapy.
DNA Altering Gene Therapy
About 300,000 people are born each year with sickle-cell disease, a condition caused by a faulty gene involved in the development of red blood cells: it can put them at increased risk of anemia, serious infections, and other dangerous conditions. Some patients require regular blood transfusions to manage the condition, and people of specific origins – including African, Middle Eastern, and Asian – are more likely to be affected. In March, it was reported that 15 months after undergoing a new treatment in a Paris hospital, a teenager with sickle-cell was symptom-free. The treatment, a gene therapy that alters the DNA in bone marrow, was created by Bluebird Bio.
AI Algorithm Diagnosis Tool
Sophia Genetics uses AI algorithms to sort through patients’ DNA sequences in an attempt to diagnose cancer and other illnesses more quickly. The company’s business model is to charge hospitals and doctors a fee – reportedly between $50 and $200 per test – each time they use the tool. It does not sell directly to the consumer. The company’s expectation is that as the number of patients increases, the sophistication of its analysis will improve. The technology is now being used in more than 300 hospitals in 50 countries mostly in Latin America, Europe, and Africa.
Everything from new artificial hearts to genetic engineering, the healthcare industry is surely becoming more agile, effective and cost-effective for patients looking for care.