It’s a logic that the tireless researchers, doctors and scientists working in the field of medicine take to their work every day – disease doesn’t take a day off! As a result, brilliant discoveries and inventions are being brought to light all the time.
Where There’s Smoke There’s … Diagnosis
Part of the reason we use terms such as ‘remission’ rather than ‘cure’ is that cancer is such a difficult disease to pin down – surgery may have got all the cells, but there’s also a chance some were missed (chemotherapy is often used as a precaution for this very reason). However, the iKnife could help ensure all cancerous cells are removed in the first procedure. Like many modern surgical instruments, the iKnife uses heat, rather than a blade, to make its incisions. However, where smoke is generally seen as a superfluous side effect, the iKnife uses rapid evaporative ionization mass spectrometry (REIMS) technology to analyze the smoke.
“After the smoke has been aspirated, we then apply machine learning tools to the raw data to search for patterns of molecules against large databases of previously validated spectra,” Dr James Kinross, consultant colorectal surgeon and senior lecturer at Imperial College London, explained to SelectScience. The result is that the surgeon is told in real-time if the cells being removed are cancerous or not – vastly improving the odds that all cells that need to be removed are done so.
Wiping Out Malaria With Spit
The 2018 World Malaria Report found the disease is still killing 435,000 people per year, with the majority of those children aged under five. While there is new technology that can identify the disease before the patient begins to exhibit symptoms, vastly improving the chances of successful treatment, a blood test needs to be administered. And with the majority of fatalities occurring in children, it can seem an unnecessary cruelty to subject someone so young to the pain and trauma of a blood test for a disease they don’t apparently have. It’s also an expensive procedure, requiring highly trained professionals and extensive logistics – all to identify a disease found overwhelmingly in the world’s poorest nations. However, a team of researchers have discovered a workaround – saliva. Specifically, it was discovered that the parasite that causes the disease secretes a specific molecule that can be found in an infected patient’s saliva.
“The saliva test basically works like other blood-based malaria rapid diagnostic tests that have a test strip inside a plastic cassette, similar to a pregnancy test,” Rhoel David Ramos Dinglasan, of the CDC Southeastern Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, wrote for The Conversation. “It is important to note that the portable saliva test is almost as sensitive as a molecular diagnostic test, which are only available from a laboratory.” Dinglasan speculated these cheap testing kits could be rolled out within three years, which hopefully would help achieve the World Health Organization’s stated aim of malaria elimination.
How Packaging Could Slash Heart Disease
It’s far cheaper and less invasive to prevent disease than to cure it, which is why preventive medicine is becoming a major focus. And one of the best ways we can defeat a host of diseases in advance is to cut obesity levels. Obviously, this is a battle that needs to be fought on a number of fronts, but healthy diet is a huge factor – and recent studies have found that getting people to eat better may simply be a case of changing the packaging. Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine said the key to getting people to eat better is by emphasizing “taste and satisfaction rather than nutritional properties”. “By making the healthy choice and the delicious choice one and the same, taste-focused labelling represents a low-cost, scalable strategy that holds potential for increasing consumption of healthy foods,” the study concluded. It’s a small start, but if it helps to cut rates of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, the most important shift in medicine in the immediate future may actually be redesigning food packaging!