Massachusetts General Unveils Smartphone Device for Diagnosing Cancer


A team from Massachusetts General Hospital has developed new technology that converts a smartphone into a tool for cancer diagnosis. The approach, called D3 (digital diffraction diagnosis), consists of a dongle that sits on top of the phone’s camera and specially designed microbeads that bind to cancer cells that can then be imaged using the phone.


By quantifying the number of tumor-marker-targeting microbeads bound to cells (lower images), the D3 system categorizes high- and low-risk cervical biopsy samples as well as traditional pathology (upper images) does. (Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Systems Biology)

The microbeads are coated with antibodies that target specific cancer types, while the shape of the beads determines how they diffract light. Thanks to the optical components and the LED light within the dongle, the system is able to capture tens of thousands of cells in a sample in one shot. Once that’s done, a special app developed just for this purpose analyzes the image taken, quantifying the light returning from the sample and converting that into an indicator of the chance of the presence of cancer.

Some details from the announcement:

D3 analysis of fine-needle lymph node biopsy samples was accurately able to differentiate four patients whose lymphoma diagnosis was confirmed by conventional pathology from another four with benign lymph node enlargement. Along with protein analyses, the system was enhanced to successfully detect DNA – in this instance from human papilloma virus – with great sensitivity. In these pilot tests, results of the D3 assay were available in under an hour and at a cost of $1.80 per assay, a price that would be expected to drop with further refinement of the system.

“We expect that the D3 platform will enhance the breadth and depth of cancer screening in a way that is feasible and sustainable for resource limited-settings,” says Ralph Weissleder, MD, PhD, director of the MGH Center for Systems Biology (CSB) and co-senior author of the paper. “By taking advantage of the increased penetration of mobile phone technology worldwide, the system should allow the prompt triaging of suspicious or high-risk cases that could help to offset delays caused by limited pathology services in those regions and reduce the need for patients to return for follow-up care, which is often challenging for them.”

Study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Digital diffraction analysis enables low-cost molecular diagnostics on a smartphone…

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital…

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Scientists Explain How Deep Brain Stimulation Works in Parkinson’s Patients

deep-brain-stimulation-ucsfDeep brain stimulation (DBS) can have dramatic benefits for people living with Parkinson’s disease, but how this technology actually works to influence the brain has remained a mystery. This is an issue because some patients respond much differently to DBS than others, so being able to tune the therapy to each patient can improve its effectiveness. Researchers at University of California, San Francisco have been experimenting with real Parkinson’s patients to identify the mode of action of DBS.

The team placed electrodes under the skulls of patients being implanted with DBS devices. They recorded the activity of the motor cortex, focusing on the “synchronicity” of the signals throughout the brain region. What they discovered is that in Parkinson’s patients there’s a high level of synchronicity, with large groups of neurons seemingly participating in a unified self-reinforcing rhythm. Yet, when deep brain stimulation was applied to the subthalamic nucleus, the synchronicity within the motor cortex dropped significantly, as though the neurons have decoupled themselves and are acting independently.

From the study abstract in Nature Neuroscience:

In the primary motor cortex of PD patients, neuronal population spiking is excessively synchronized to the phase of network oscillations. This manifests in brain surface recordings as exaggerated coupling between the phase of the beta rhythm and the amplitude of broadband activity. We show that acute therapeutic DBS reversibly reduces phase-amplitude interactions over a similar time course as that of the reduction in parkinsonian motor signs. We propose that DBS of the basal ganglia improves cortical function by alleviating excessive beta phase locking of motor cortex neurons.

Study in Nature Neuroscience: Therapeutic deep brain stimulation reduces cortical phase-amplitude coupling in Parkinson’s disease…

Source: UC San Francisco…

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IBM and Apple Partner to Process Upcoming Flood of Healthcare Data (VIDEO)

ibm-and-appleIBM has announced that its Watson supercomputing platform and Health Cloud data storage will be compatible with Apple‘s HealthKit and ResearchKit data sharing platforms. This will allow researchers to collect data using iOS apps, safely store it in the cloud, and rigorously process it using IBM’s pattern recognition and artificial intelligence algorithms.

The company is promising to strip personally identifiable data before it’s aggregated and analyzed, and claims that its Health Cloud is one of the safest data storage facilities on the planet. The researchers believe that now that we’re expecting to be collecting truly enormous amounts of health data, IBM’s computing horsepower will be able to identify clinically relevant points within the data that may lead to new therapies and cures.

Here are some folks from IBM talking about the new partnership:


Source: IBM…

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EEM 2014 Top 10 Video Countdown: #4 Whose risk are you managing?

Dr. David Schriger and this thought provoking look into “Whose risk are you managing?” are number four on our EEM 2014 top 10 list. The key question David asks the EEM 2014 attendees is are you providing the “ideal amount of medical care to your patients” or is fear driving the practice of emergency medicine? This is the quintessential EEM talk, insightful and philosophical and 100% focused on doing what is right for patients and for the heart and soul of the practitioner. 30 hours of amazing CME for this talk and the rest of EEM 2014 is available now with your EEM 2014 Digital package purchase.

Registration is now open for EEM 2015 Oct 13-15 in Las Vegas. Space is limited so register today!

Essentials… “It’s more than education.” ™


EEM 2014 Top 10 #4

I diritti del morente.. in pronto soccorso.

  Negli ultimi decenni sempre maggiore attenzione è stata posta sul superamento del rapporto paternalistico e sull’affermarsi del diritto all’autodeterminazione del paziente. Appare inoltre ormai chiaro che l’apprendimento delle competenze necessarie per assicurare una corretta relazione medico paziente non può essere lasciato alla spontaneità del singolo e all’imitazione dei colleghi più anziani. Recentemente alcune facoltà […]

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Medtronic Micra, World’s Smallest Pacemaker That Lives Inside Heart, Cleared in Europe


Medtronic landed the CE Mark of approval to introduce its Micra pacemaker in Europe. This is the world’s smallest pacemaker, and because it’s implanted via transfemoral route completely inside the heart it doesn’t need or use cardiac leads. Moreover, there’s no need to create a chest pocket for the pacemaker to reside in, avoiding many of the complications related to that.

micra-in-heartThe device is attached directly to the heart using tines, with the electrode at the tip delivering the pacing signals. It can be repositioned as needed, or removed for any reason.

The Micra has already been implanted in initial patients in the U.S., though it is still considered an investigational device by the FDA.

From the announcement:

The device was awarded CE Mark based on results from the first 60 patients (at three months) in the Medtronic Micra TPS Global Clinical Trial. The trial is ongoing and will continue to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the device through a single-arm, multi-center study that will enroll up to 780 patients at approximately 50 centers in 20 countries. Initial results from the Micra TPS Global Clinical Trial will be revealed for the first time at a late-breaking clinical trials session at the Heart Rhythm Society’s 2015 Annual Scientific Sessions in May.

Flashbacks: Medtronic Introduces Micra, World’s Smallest Pacemaker…; World’s Smallest Endocardial Pacemaker Getting Implanted in Initial Set of Patients…

Source: Medtronic…

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