Sunday, March 20, 2011

Study Guide Answers

1. Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System
2. A human hair
3. Microscale Physics

1. False: Ultrasound does not emit ionic radiation, which is one of its greatest advantages.
2. Transducer
3. SOund Navigation and Ranging

1. Victor Yang, fiber optics
2. Puncturing the arterial wall
3. Doppler Optical Coherence Tomography

1. Magnetically
2. Sylvain Martel, Director of the Nanorobotics Laboratory at Polytechnique Montreal
3. 50 micrometers in diameter, biodegradable polymer

1. Tear ducts/surface of the eye
2. $170 billion
3. The main concern involves getting consistently accurate readings.

1. Rat Conscious Animal PET
2. Studying the molecular processes that occur in the brain.
3. The correlation of dopamine levels to behavior (the rat's movement within it's chambers).

1. Guoan Zheng
2. 50 cents
3. CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor)

1. Radi Kaiuf, shot by sniper's bullet.
2. Rewalk
3. $50,000

1. Astrogenetix
2. Salmonella
3. MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), health care settings.

1. Dr. Chris Nguan
2. Less recovery time required, smaller incisions, more precise, less pain and discomfort.
3. The study was used to determine the impact of surgical robot acquisition on the rate of surgery on prostate cancer. It found that it does increase surgical volume.

1. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and University of Texas at Dallas
2. Multifocal Plane Microscopy and Nanodot Labeling
3. Current Microscopy Technology uses single plane imaging whereas the new Multifocal uses multiple planes simultaneously.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blood Diagnostic Chip Made Quick and Easy

Article from New Blood Analysis Chip Could Lead to Disease Diagnosis in Minutes
Photograph of the stand alone 1x2 inch SIMBAS chip simultaneously processing five separate whole-blood samples by separating the plasma from the blood cells and detecting the presence of biotin, or vitamin B7. (Credit: Ivan Dimov)

In many of my previous blogs on medical technology, I have emphasized the need and market for the technology to become so portable that it is able to be used on the field in underdeveloped nations to help fight disease and epidemics. The chip that you see above is doing just that. It allows for quick, on-the-site blood testing.

This device is called SIMBAS by it's creators (Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System). UC Berkley post doctoral researcher states, "The dream of a true lab-on-a-chip has been around for a while, but most systems developed thus far have not been truly autonomous. By the time you add tubing and sample prep setup components required to make previous chips function, they lose their characteristic of being small, portable and cheap. In our device, there are no external connections or tubing required, so this can truly become a point-of-care system."

His collegue, UC Berkley professor of bioengineering, Luke Lee states, "This is a very important development for global healthcare diagnostics. Field workers would be able to use this device to detect diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis in a matter of minutes. The fact that we reduced the complexity of the biochip and used plastic components makes it much easier to manufacture in high volume at low cost. Our goal is to address global health care needs with diagnostic devices that are functional, cheap and truly portable."

With the accessibility of blood testing and their ensuing results being difficult to attain in rural areas like HIV infested Africa, diagnosing has always been difficult. Doctors could send off blood samples for testing, but in some cases, the time it took to get results back from a competent lab could be tragically too long. With the SIMBAS chip, results are currently coming in about 10 mins after the sample is taken. If you consider the quick turnaround along with the low price of the chips themselves, the research is compelling.

In conclusion, a quote from the study's co-author and UC Berkley graduate student, Benjamin Ross, "Imagine if you had something as cheap and as easy to use as a pregnancy test, but that could quickly diagnose HIV and TB. That would be a real game-changer. It could save millions of lives."

Study Guide Questions:

1. What does SIMBAS stand for?

2. About how wide are the microfluidic channels on the SIMBAS biochip?

3. Fill in the Blank: Researchers took advantage of the laws of ________ ________ to speed up processes that take hours or days in a traditional lab.


University of California - Berkeley. "New blood analysis chip could lead to disease diagnosis in minutes." ScienceDaily 18 March 2011. 20 March 2011­/releases/2011/03/110318102243.htm.

Continuing Developments in Portable Ultrasound Equipment

Ultrasound technology is quickly becoming the wave of the future in regards to on-the-spot diagnostics. With portable ultrasound machines being used for about five years now, the technology is continually getting smaller and more affordable. In the article entitled, "Bedside Ultrasound Becomes a Reality," the reader is given a promising look at how ultrasound is changing the initial face of medicine.

"Clinicians have often referred to ultrasound technology as the "stethoscope of the future," predicting that as the equipment shrinks in size, it will one day be as common at the bedside as that trusty tool around every physician's neck. According to a new report in The New England Journal of Medicine, that day has arrived."

Ultrasound was first used aboard submarines to detect obstacle's in their path and positioning of enemy and ally ships. This was a form of radar called "Sonar" (SOund Navigation And Ranging). A sonic wave is produced by a transducer, and as it is travels, it reflects off of different objects which send that wave back to the original source. The source then calculates the time it took for the sound wave to return, and then judges the items basic distance and location. This same idea is the foundation for how the ultrasounds work in the medical industry. Sound waves are sent out through the wand or probe (technically know as the transducer), and as the wave comes in contact with tissues and organs, it reflects, and an image is produced that visualizes the distance the waves traveled. For an example of an image produced by ultrasound, see the sonogram that is above. A video explaining the basics of how an ultrasound works, and how it is used in the medical field, can be seen below:

Let's look to the future. If ultrasound continues to become more portable and affordable, where can we expect to see this technology? If you recall in a previous blog entry, I introduced the use of new microchip technology to turn a cell phone into a diagnostic microscope. How far of a stretch would it be to expect a USB-connecting ultrasound transducer? One that emits the sound waves and interprets them, all in one package, that can be easily plugged into a small laptop computer or cell phone. This would again allow doctors in the third world to visit villages and have the accessibility of an ultrasound at their fingertips. They could quickly diagnose and track developments of a troubled pregnancy, or look at the possibility of kidney stones in a pained patient. Ultrasound can also be used to see where mobility problems may live within joints and muscles, giving doctors the upper-hand in making a correct diagnosis out in the field. Sports trainers could also utilize this portable ultrasound to instantly view damage to a joint or possible internal injuries caused by a cracked rib or neck injury. This would allow them to be able to see the problem, and stabilize the athlete appropriately before they are taken off the field of play to receive treatment.

Any doctor should welcome the use of new affordable technology to help them make the correct diagnosis the first time. With Ultrasound being refined and further developed, we should definitely expect to see more uses for the technology, and more ways to utilize it in and outside of the hospital environment. Since the use of ultrasound does not emit an ionic radiation, it is considered the most non-invasive type of imaging and will remain a staple in the medical community for years to come.

Study Guide Questions:

1. True or False: One disadvantage to Ultrasound Technology is that it emits ionic radiation.

2. In ultrasound technology, what is the technical name for the piece of equipment which emits the sound?

3. What does SONAR stand for?


Yale University. "Bedside ultrasound becomes a reality." ScienceDaily 24 February 2011. 20 March 2011­/releases/2011/02/110223171247.htm.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Using Fiber Optics to Diagnose and Treat Disease

Victor Yang has been developing way to use Fiber Optic technology to detect and treat diseases. He is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and assists Phd students with new forms of research surrounding his new techniques and technology. His students are quickly making a name for themselves and for the medical program at Ryerson University in Toronto Canada. His research is currently being funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Yang has created a new form of imaging called Doppler Optical Coherence Tomography (DOCT). From the article at

"Using minuscule optical fibres, originally created for the telecommunications industry, DOCT creates detailed, 3-D images of the tiniest structures and movements within the body. When looking at delicate and small anatomical features, DOCT is more exact than ultrasound, more economical than MRI scans and safer than X-rays. Above all, DOCT can see things 10 to 100 times smaller than these traditional techniques."

Of course in the medical community, being able to see what you are getting into is a huge advantage when it comes both to surgery preparations and to diagnosing diseases. Once made accessible to the medical community, doctors will be able to see indepth 3-D models than previously produced by ultrasound, x-ray, and MRI imaging. It also comes with a cheaper price tag, which will likely make it very appealing to patients and hospitals alike.

Victor Yang has also used some fiber optic probes that can easily pass through a catheter and gather intel for a heart surgeon attempting to open an artery in the heart:

"... in a coronary angioplasty, a balloon-tipped catheter is used to open a narrowed or blocked artery in the heart. During such a delicate procedure, however, there is a risk of puncturing the arterial wall. Yang and his team have built a mini-probe that can look ahead and guide the catheter to form the right shape within the artery."

With this type of technology available, there is less risk involved in procedures like coronary angioplasty. This will allow doctors to be more exact and cautious with the procedure, and in turn, help to prevent the need for further surgeries in the future.

The use of fiber optics technology in Medical fields is not necessarily brand new, but manipulating the tech is constantly making waves and causing more researchers to move their focus in this direction. For some basic information on "optical fibers", please visit this link at wikipedia.

Study Guide Questions:

1. What is the name of the doctor featured in this article and what basic technology is he developing?

2. What is a normal risk of coronary angioplasty?

3. What does DOCT stand for?


Yates, Dana. "Researcher Develops Medical Technology to Detect and Treat Disease." 18 Mar. 2011. Web. 18 Mar. 2011.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nanomeds Fighting Cancer

Image Explanation: Left: Navigation using magnetic resonance in the hepatic artery. Right: Image of liver using magnetic resonance. Key: Blue dots represent therapeutic magnetic microcarriers (TMMC); + represent anticancer agents; Red oval is part of the liver; Red bar is the catheter. (Credit: Image courtesy of Polytechnique Montréal)


Professor Sylvain Martel announced a new breakthrough in the field of nanomedicine. His team of colleagues has developed a way to magnetically transport small capsules, filled with an anti-cancer drug, directly to an area afflicted with cancer. As many are familiar, one of the main ways to fight cancer is with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy conventionally involves an intravenous drip of chemicals that work their way through the body and hopefully attack cancer cells. Where Martel's development trumps traditional chemotherapy, is that the chemicals don't have to circulate through the entire body, but instead, can be navigated directly to the cancer site before releasing their medication.

For a list of the side effects of chemotherapy, please visit this link at There are so many side effects because the chemotherapy is literally built to kill cancer cells in the body, and along the way, it can wreak havoc on the bodies various organs because of its toxicity.

Martel is heading in the right direction. Making these drugs easier to deliver is a big step to making cancer treatments more effective and less harmful to the human body. With the patent being submitted to the US patent office recently, we may be seeing tests with FDA soon, and hopefully approved. Within this article, there is no indication on the cost of producing the tiny microcarriers, but I would hope that the treatment would be accessible to the public, and not just the wealthy. Insurance Companies should see that the localized treatment will cut the costs relating to complications with chemotherapy, and it should keep their clients alive longer to pay insurance premiums.

Where will this new technology lead? A valid question, but a somewhat easy answer. Being built on the platform of being to target cancerous areas, is a great way to get these microcarriers in the limelight. Of course we can venture to guess that this new technology could be formulated to deliver a wide array of medication and treatment to various parts of the body.

Study Guide Questions:

1. How are the capsules directed to the target site?

2. What is the name of the scientists who is featured in this article and what is his title?

3. How big are the capsules and from what are they made?


Polytechnique MontrĂ©al. "World first: Localized delivery of an anti-cancer drug by remote-controlled microcarriers." ScienceDaily 18 March 2011. 20 March 2011­/releases/2011/03/110316084417.htm.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Diabetes Monitoring Breakthrough

A new product in the world of diabetes testing is currently under development in Arizona. For years diabetics have pricked their finger to get a small blood sample to measure their glucose levels, but scientists have found a new process. Under development is a monitoring device that can use secretions from the tear ducts to measure blood glucose levels. So far, the preliminary tests look to be very comparable in accuracy with the finger prick methods, but it is much more comfortable since there is not the initial pain of the needle pricking the finger. The goal of the current testing procedures, is to make sure that this method, and the new monitoring devices, are consistently getting accurate readings.

The article expresses the fact that there are many diabetics who do not test their blood glucose levels because of how uncomfortable it is to prick their finger multiple times a day. With the experimental monitoring devices, they can get a reading right off the surface of the eye. Though this still may be a little uncomfortable to touch something to one's eye, it takes away the fear of the needle having to pierce the skin. The new method looks to improve the rate at which diabetics test themselves, in order to keep more from serious medical problems. In the following clip from the article, you can see how costly diabetes is on our national economy:

"A study commissioned by the American Diabetes Association reported that in 2007 the national economic burden related to diabetes was more than $170 billion -- including about $116 billion in additional health care costs and $58 billion in lost productivity from workers debilitated by the disease."

If diabetics are more likely to test themselves with the new method, it is logical to think that the overall cost of diabetic care, and the amount of revenue lost as diabetics are unable to go to work due to medical reasons will definitely decrease. As the research is developed, more donors will begin to back the cost of the research in hopes of grabbing a piece of the sales after it is approved by the FDA. I highly doubt that this research would be dropped or abandoned, because the amount of possible profit for a less invasive method of glucose testing is great.

Study Guide Questions:

1. From where will the new device measure glucose levels?

2. In 2007, how much was the national economic burden to diabetes?

3. What is the main concern with the current tests involving the new technology?

Diabetic Dog Game

Experience what it is like to have diabetes by taking care of your own online dog.


Arizona State University. "New device holds promise of making blood glucose testing easier for patients with diabetes." ScienceDaily 16 March 2011. 20 March 2011­/releases/2011/03/110315163219.htm.

RatCAP Producing Great New Looks into Brain Activity

ARTICLE: Miniature 'Wearable' PET Scanner: Simultaneous study of Behavior and Brain Function in Animals

According to, Scientists have recently been able to attach a portable PET scanner to rats. With the PET scanner being worn on the rat's head, they are able to measure brain stimulus as the rat is awake and responding to stimulus. This is unique because normally an animal must be anesthetized and immobile for accurate scan to be taken. The device is appropriately named "RatCAP". The RatCAP is described below from the article:

"After several years of development, the scientists have arrived at a design for a miniature, portable, donut- shaped PET scanner that can be "worn" like a collar on a rat's head for simultaneous studies of brain function and behavior. Weighing only 250 grams, the device -- dubbed RatCAP, for Rat Conscious Animal PET -- is counterbalanced by a system of springs and motion stabilizers to allow the animal significant freedom of movement. Measurements of the rats' stress hormones indicated only moderate and temporary increases."

If this technology can be shown to be reliable, which it has been very useful so far in evaluating dopamine levels in the animals' brains, neuroscientists could adapt this to larger animals and eventually humans. With this new type of "wearable" scanner being miniaturized and portable, we may also see this adapted to new types of scanning.

For an example of expansion of the RatCAP's basic concepts, think about sports trainers. If they were able to place a portable CT or MRI scanner on a knee in order to get a real time look at how a knee is functioning and to look for any problems within the athlete's movements, there would be a much greater chance of getting a correct diagnosis the first time. On the Neurological side of things, this same type of device could be used to accurately show the stimulus points of a suspect in a murder case.

The RatCAP provides inspiration not just for real time mapping of brain activity, but also for further research into the portability and uses of other types of imaging machinery. What if a doctor could take a portable MRI scanner to third world nations and help diagnose and operate on cancer victims? Would this not provide a quick and accurate look at the patient's ailment, and give the doctor a much greater chance at a successful surgery in the field?

Study Guide Questions:

1. What does RatCAP stand for?

2. According to Paul Vaska, what is PET used for?

3. In this case, what was the RatCAP used to measure?


DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory. "Miniature 'wearable' PET scanner: Simultaneous study of behavior and brain function in animals." ScienceDaily 14 March 2011. 20 March 2011­/releases/2011/03/110313160023.htm.