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1. Artificial intelligence detects signs of heart failure

UK's Medical Research Council has developed a software that analyses blood tests and scans for beating hearts to spot signs of heart failure.

MRI scans of 256 patients' hearts and blood test results were keyed into the software. The scans measure the movement of 30,000 different points in the heart during each heartbeat. Combining this with eight years of patient health records who suffered from pulmonary hypertension, the artificial intelligence learned which abnormalities predicted when patients would die - up to five years in the future.

It correctly predicted those who would still be alive after a year, about 80% of the time. For doctors, they can only predict correctly 60% of the time. The team say the technology could save lives by identifying patients that require more aggressive treatment. They are testing the software on other patients in different hospitals before making it widely available to doctors.

The team also plans to use the technology in other forms of heart failure such as cardiomyopathy, to identify those in need of a pacemaker or other forms of treatment.

2. Urine test to assess healthiness of diet

A team of collaborated scientists from Imperial College London, Northwestern University and the University of Southern Denmark, has developed a urine test to gauge the healthiness of an individual's meal.

The current method to assess diet - self-reporting - is unreliable as many under-report the amount of unhealthy food they eat, while over-reporting the amount of healthy food. The study looked at 20 participants on four separate occasions who consumed four different diets, which were assessed as ranging from very healthy to unhealthy.

Their urine samples were tested for substances known to be associated with certain metabolic profiles and it was found that urine tests were robust enough to identify the dietary patterns in participants.

The study had a very small sample size and more research is needed to verify the findings, but the team said that this could be a potential screening and research tool to identify and monitor individuals at risk of obesity and non-communicable diseases.

3. 'Human organs-on-chip' to propel and revolutionise medicine

Biological engineers at Harvard University have invented a 'human organs-on-chip' microchip to be lined with living human cells to revolutionise medicine, in relation to drug testing, disease modelling and personalised medicine.

The microchip is made from a clear flexible polymer containing hollow microfluidic channels lined with living human cells and an interface that lines the endothelium.

The microchip then emulates the microarchitecture and functions of multiple human organs such as the lungs, kidneys, skin, bone marrow, intestines and blood-brain barrier. Drugs can then be tested out and diseases affecting the body can be studies, without having to endanger human patients, or waste organs that could be used for transplants.

The engineers are seeking to commercialise the technology and improve the organ-on-chip platform to explore potential for personalised medicine and identify new therapeutic targets and clinical biomarkers.

4. UV light by 'robot' can defeat superbugs in hospital rooms

A study by Duke University showed that bathing hospital rooms in ultraviolet (UV) light, can kill drug-resistant superbugs that are putting the health of patients at serious risk.

A portable "robot" emits UVC light before a patient checks in and it was found that when the room was exposed to UVC light for half-an-hour before, it can reduce the presence of drug-resistant bacteria by 30%.

UVC light also poses no risk to humans. The 1.5 metre-tall cylindrical UVC robots are typically used in what is called a terminal cleaning process - when a room is cleaned from floor to ceiling to eliminate all traces of bacteria that a sick patient may have left behind.

The cleaning protocol was most successful with actively growing bacteria such as MRSA and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) and less so with dormant microbes such as C.difficile.

5. Gel that clots wounds within seconds

In 2010, then 17-year-old Joe Landolina, invented a prototype of a gel that can form a clot within 12 seconds and permanently heal the wound within minutes, in his grandfather's lab.

Fast forward five years, he has partnered up with Isaac Miler, a fellow New York University alumni, to commercialise VetiGel, an algae-based polymer that forms a mesh-like structure upon contact with damaged tissue, under a biotech company called Cresilon Inc.

This allows the gel to act as a scaffold, helping the production of fibrin, whilst being a strong adhesive that binds the wound therefore allowing VetiGel to seal wounds quickly and actually heal the skin as well. Within few minutes of application, the gel can be safely removed.

However, the gel is only approved for use on animals. A version to be used on humans, known as TraumaGel, is currently undergoing FDA approval and is estimated to be commercialised within the next year. The duo also hopes that the gel will be able to help military personnel and EMTs before entering operating rooms and finally, individual homes. MIMS

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