1. Non-invasive, wearable devices for diabetics
For the past half decade, Apple has been covertly developing wearable device that can track the body's blood sugar levels in an attempt to create a non-invasive diagnostic tool for diabetics. The device is built upon optical sensors, which reportedly involves shining light through the skin to check current glucose levels.
The company has already started conducting feasibility trials at clinical sites across the Bay Area and hiring regulatory affairs consultants. But it is not yet clear how and when Apple is planning to release the sensor.
"Abbott, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Becton, Dickinson and Company and Roche, just to name five established big clinical companies, have taken decades to where we are today," commented Doug Schenkel, a senior research analyst with Cowen and Company.
"What Apple is trying to do is harder," he said. "This is really tough stuff."
If Apple succeeds, it would not only make the lives of diabetic patients easier; it would revolutionise the way healthcare is administered.
2. Non-electronic health-monitoring tattoos
Commercially available health-monitoring devices today tend to be complicated to use, expensive, and bulky, or work only through smartphone apps, making them less accessible to the poor.
LogicInk is a company based in San Francisco, California, that purports to offer a better solution in the form of a low-cost, programmable temporary tattoo which changes shape and colour in response to any change in the wearer’s vitals, or the detection of biomarkers related to diseases such as Zika, allowing early detection.
The tattoo is free of electronics, instead using biology and chemistry to provide a continuous, non-invasive form of health monitoring.
“We’re meeting the demand of a growing population of users who want to know more about their bodies, and their surrounding environment, and live healthier lives, without the barriers and limitations of existing devices,” CEO Carlos Olguin noted.
3. Anti-aging pills to postpone death
In 2014, a drug trial carried out by Novartis renewed interest in anti-ageing drugs. Termed the 'first human ageing trial', it was found that the drug everolimus, a derivative of rapamycin, causes the immune systems of elderly patients in Australia and New Zealand to exhibit more robust responses to flu vaccines, a manner similar to the young.
Rapamycin, or Rapa Nui, is a compound secreted from soil bacteria native to Easter Island, with wide-ranging effects on the immune system - it is currently used in transplant as an immune suppressant. Interestingly, laboratory trials show that it consistently prolongs the lives of flies, worms, and rodents – with mice living 25% longer, on average, regardless of age.
According to Brian Kennedy, a researcher of ageing at the Buck Institute, the Novartis study was “groundbreaking” because it showed a novel way of addressing the impact of rapamycin on the effects of age.
A start-up company, resTORbio, funded by PureTech Health, has licensed two drug molecules from Novartis’ research to reverse age-related detrimental changes to the immune system.
4. Combating disease-causing pathogens with probiotics
Video credit: SciBac
Antibiotic resistance is a global problem which will render many diseases untreatable. SciBac, a Californian company based in Milpitas, aims to treat Clostridium difficile (C. diff) - a potentially recurring gastrointestinal infection with a 10% mortality rate - through the use of smart bacteria colonies which fortify the microbiome.
Its three-pronged approach, termed ‘rEvolutionary’ live biotherapeutics, is touted as a safe, natural alternative to antibiotics. The company's first live biotherapeutic, DiffiKil, is made up of three different types of probiotics and kills C. diff bacteria, stops colonisation by preventing bacteria from binding to the colon, and neutralises toxins, while reducing recurrence rates.
SciBac is also developing Aeruguard, a single-strain inhaled biotherapeutic which suppresses harmful Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria and breaks down mucus in patients with cystic fibrosis, while reducing scarring in lungs due to inflammatory immune response to the pathogen. MIMS
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