Medical Breakthroughs You Might Not Know - Breakthrough Week


By Davina Bhandari

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Whether you’re fascinated by the future of prosthetics, or simply looking to explore the potential lifestyle applications of your iPhone, several recent medical breakthroughs may very well pique your interest.

After receiving FDA approval in April, RevMedx created an innovative solution for gunshot wounds. Named XStat, the concept of its design was inspired by a simple everyday object: the sponge that sits atop your kitchen sink. The company website claims that XStat works by injecting small sponges into the wound cavity via syringe. Once introduced, these sponges absorb blood and expand in the body. By temporarily limiting flow, the technology can help save humans from falling victim to excessive blood loss.

Also approved by the FDA is a device called the DEKA arm, a prosthetic limb controlled by brain signals.

Segway inventor Dean Kamen oversaw the project. He drew inspiration not from his kitchen, or even a Segway stroll, but from a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Yes, from Star Wars; Kamen named the bionic arm “Luke” after Luke Skywalker, the character who was fitted for a prosthetic.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded the project as part of their “Revolutionizing Prosthetics” program. According to the FDA, the DEKA is the first prosthetic arm capable of performing multiple, simultaneous movements by way of electromyogram electrodes.

CNN reports that the arm can be configured for individuals who experienced limb loss at the shoulder joint, mid-upper arm or mid-lower arm. The device allows amputees to handle an object as delicate as an egg and perform everyday tasks that might have posed a challenge otherwise.

Following another unspoken theme of sci-fi entertainment, the Israeli start-up Consumer Physics is busy making a real-life version of a device that resembles the spectrometer from Star Trek. They launched, then concluded, a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for SCiO, a hand-held nutrition scanner.

According to Consumer Physics, the molecular sensor can read the chemical make-up of materials such as food, plants, medicine, and so on. Before biting into a fruit, you can scan it with SCiO to check if it’s ripe enough. You can also scan your plants to check the status of their health. SCiO gives users control of what they consume in a personalized manner.

There’s a partner mobile app for SCiO, which presents nutritional breakdowns and other such information on your phone. Available for pre-order at $250.00, these handheld sensors are expected to ship to interested buyers in March 2015.

More along the lines of consumer health is a device that can help you keep track of your liquid intake. Vessyl, available for pre-order at $99, is a vessel for liquids that senses, recognizes, and analyzes the beverages you put into it. This device also makes use of a mobile app.

The Vessyl “smart cup” is built with a sensor that can analyze the molecular content of your drink. By presenting users nutritional information, it can help them control their liquid consumption for purposes of weight loss or general health reasons. According to the product’s website, the device will help users understand their “liquid calories” over the course of the day and the week, helping them to stay better hydrated, healthier, and more aware.

Living in a world with constantly burgeoning technology that comes in all forms of usefulness or uselessness, one might find benefit in staying on top of the latest medical innovations.