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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Inhaled tuberculosis vaccine – a gateway to affordable and non-invasive drug delivery

Posted by evolvingwheel on March 13, 2008

Several months back I mentioned about saliva as a source of biomarkers for different diseases. The theme of my post was to delineate the non-invasive and easy-to-administer features of a method that could be used in developing areas of the world where harsh environmental conditions, lack of trained resources, and ignorance pose potent threats to proper diagnosis. This posting comes under the same theme of affordable diagnosis and drug administration where the sturdy nature of the delivery methodology makes it easier to transport, store, distribute, and apply medication among masses of population who often survive on less than $1 a day. tb.jpg

Researchers from Harvard University and an Int’l nonprofit Medicine in Need (MEND) have come up with an aerosol version of a common TB vaccine that can be applied as an aerosol mist. The differentiator is the aerosol delivery using nanoparticle technology that may change the current immunization delivery platform altogether. In the hot countries of Africa and Asia, some of the most difficult challenges are storage and sterility of injection needles. This method, which is currently being tested on animals with highly positive outcomes, if successfully implemented among the human population, can add a whole new horizon of social innovation in immunization for the most needy. A more detailed information about the method and their pioneering inventors can be found [here].

Even in the western hemisphere, this new method, if proven successful, can put the industry of drug delivery upside down. Such a scientific innovation could instantiate a process overhaul among several other collateral supporting industries that provide us with needles, storage, delivery medium, etc. Several years back my friend was using the Asthma inhaler called AdvAir. I was really impressed by the easy-to-use style of the delivery medium – air! If a similar technology could be brought over for the Flu vaccine, I wonder what will be the impact on the society where immunization will be a matter of few seconds and the candidate doesn’t even need to be in a clinic or a healthcare facility. Another major dimensional change will be if the immunization becomes a OTC activity.

Picture: Courtesy Harvard Science/David Edwards, the Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

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Posted in diagnosis, drugs, Environment, health, Innovation | Leave a Comment »

Strike against Bisphenol – Consumer awareness dictates product shift despite regulatory indifference

Posted by evolvingwheel on March 1, 2008

There has been a growing concern about Bisphenol-A (BPA) over the last couple of years. As different lab test results come out through the media outlet and Internet, highlighting the negative effects on human health and more so on infant health, a sharply heightening awareness is leading consumers to find different options. The story can be told better if I explain a bit about this BPA and how it affects us.

Bisphenol A is a hormone-disrupting chemical considered to be potentially harmful to human health and the environment. BPA is a key building block in plastics and is used ubiquitously in different plastic products ranging from polycarbonate to polyester. BPA is one of many man-made chemicals classified as endocrine disruptor. Lately, the concern has been revolving around several critical findings that talk about the potential of leaching of this compound from transparent plastic bottles being used for feeding babies. In the US several test data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have shown that there is a decent amount of BPA in urine samples of humans between ages of 6 and 85. And CDC data reflects that “Children had higher levels than adolescents and adolescents had higher levels than adults,” says endocrinologist Retha Newbold of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Read more about the studies in the following links below:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130092108.htm

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=plastic-not-fantastic-with-bisphenol-a

The interesting part of this is how consumer awareness of these findings is translating into buying behaviors. The market for infant bottles and other baby utensils that employ BPA is staggering and more than 95% of the feeding bottles today are made from BPA. While Japan, Canada, and EU have acted judiciously on this continued research on the health effects of BPA leaching from the bottles, the FDA in the US are taking a slower reactionary standpoint to the growing concern. Meanwhile, there is a war of words between the chemical industry and health activists on this issue. The industry argues that unless BPA is proved to have ill effects it should continue to be manufactured and used, because it is cheap, lightweight, shatterproof and offers other features that are hard to match. There is no alternative for either of those materials [polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins] that would simply drop in where those materials are used. On the other hand, the activists claim that polyethylene and polypropylene plastics would be fine substitutes for several products. While the industry groups, consumer advocates, government regulators, and healthcare professionals debate over the efficacy of these researches and the true impact on human health, the consumers are now deciding their own options. bisphenolabottle.jpg

There is an increasing number of online orders for BPA free plastic feeding bottles and glass bottles. What could be more dear to one other than his/her kid’s safety. This has juxtaposed with the awareness through blogs, websites, conventional media, and email/text notes between groups and individuals. In a web2.0 world, social networking has also augmented the viral distribution of knowledge that is translating into actions. People are not waiting for Target-Walmart to take these bottles out of their shelves. Concerned parents are going online and finding other channels to suffice their needs for a non-BPA lifestyle. It appears to me that Internet is again going to be a market driver for a product usage shift. And this time it may be a remarkable example of overriding industry dictations, vested interests, and market lobbyists.

Next comes the existing market for BPA bottles. The BPA production numbers by major manufacturers as of 1999 can be found [here]. There are two dynamics to follow. One is a new market for the substitute material for infant bottles as demands grow over the next few years, and next is the shift of the polycarbonate applications from the existing infant utensil market. It wouldn’t be surprise to me if in next few months Walmart announces that they will put BPA-free bottles on their shelves. However, such a move can’t preserve the BPA bottles parallel to the ones free from it. The comparison issue will immediately discount the BPA bottles as a consumer’s choice. Then the immediate business opening is the re-utilization of the manufacturing and distribution process of BPA for infant industry.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080214.wlbottle14/BNStory/specialScienceandHealth/home

The final outcome could be FDA issuing a more strict guideline for BPA manufacture and application. However, consumer’s practice would preempt the regulatory aspect by enforcing the product development, marketing, and distribution towards a non-BPA world. Can we call that Internet enabled consumer2.0?

Picture Credit: Univ. of Cincinnati

Posted in Environment, health, materials | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Fight malaria by contributing your computer while you sleep

Posted by evolvingwheel on February 16, 2008

Remember the SETI@Home project that was launched in 1999? It has been one of those pioneering projects where grid computing was brought to average consumers who would donate their computer hours for complex analysis of radio-signals from the space. The down-loadable software would receive data from the SETI server in the background and do calculations when the machine is idle at night or when you are away from it. Such grid computing way back then opened the doors for a new class of utility that would one day serve for complex stochastic simulations that could take years with limited computing power. A new possibility emerged!

Paying heed to this tremendous potential of volunteered grid computing across populations with desktops/laptos, MalariaControl.net hosted by AFRICA@HOME has launched a similar grid computing effort to model transmission dynamics and health effects on demographics with potential of getting infected by malaria. These simulations are intensive as they demand a huge set of grid points (human populations) with innumerable attributes that control the derivation of disease progression trajectory and other forecasting knowledge. The idea is simple. The Swiss Tropical Institute has developed a model for malaria epidemiology that uses the volunteer computing ability to calculate a credible analysis and a platform for evidence-based-treatment for malaria in Africa. malaria_kid.jpg

Again, the possibility of grid computing with volunteer computer hours is enormous. Further, to sweeten the deal, the architecture to support such efforts is FREE! The Berkeley Open Architecture for Network Computing (BOINC) is a openly available middleware that can be used to launch any such project. Another greatness of the BOINC framework is the support for both Microsoft Windows and Unix/Linux systems. Even though disease epidemiology studies for non-profit endeavors are great objectives for harnessing BOINC-like utility, the for-profit sector can also benefit from such volunteer contributions. Market research based on demographic behaviors and activity patterns across international borders is a demanding aspect of international business today. Stochastic marketing research models can leverage such grid computing efforts to run comprehensive analysis of product usage patterns. Furthermore, the volunteer attribute can be enriched by a monetary payment factor for hours of modeling usage of one’s computer too.

Picture: Courtesy AMREF

Posted in Computation, health, Innovation, Medicine, poverty, social innovation | Leave a Comment »

Biochips to test toxicity of new drugs outside animal body

Posted by evolvingwheel on December 29, 2007

So a big pharma creates a drug molecule with the potential of becoming a blockbuster. $4 billion dollars have been spent in R&D and the drug-discovery life-cycle . The drug is now up for clinical trials and gets canned because of toxicity reported in animal and human treatments. The company tries to dilute the risk by spreading the failed investment into other drug development and profit margins. Future blockbuster drugs costs astronomically high!

Now consider that a new method of testing has been found that tests the toxicity of a drug-in-process way early in the discovery cycle. Guess how much investment can be saved by deflecting the risk of a flop show towards the end of the process. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., the University of California, Berkeley, and Solidus Biosciences, Inc. have developed a biochip technology that claims to reveal the potential toxicity of chemicals and drug candidates during early experiments. Read the article [here]. toxicity_on_a_chip.jpg

As in earlier cases, I am not going to talk about the technology behind it. You can read that in the article itself. I will rather try to analyze briefly the ecosystem dynamic around this innovation and what could be the potential lines of developments/creations in the industry.

  1. First thing, if this practice catches up, how will the clinical testing industry adjust with the new toxicity test way early in the cycle? How will those business components rehabilitate?
  2. We test drugs on animals earlier for toxicity and use that as a predicate for reactions on humans. Now that is often challenged. However, will the new chips really curtail the testing on animals? EU has already banned several testing on animals considering them inhumane. This policy enactment will definitely drive business development around these chips and their commercialization. How will the market get saturated with this technology and how long will that take. Will thestart-up be able to survive as bigger giants get into the game? If this technology is patented (which it is), what other methods can other companies utilize to enter this market? If there is no other than this then the market barrier is quite high. In that case there could be licensing in the horizon!
  3. Custom drugs?? – “Ultimately, each person would have their own DataChip or MetaChip that contains their own genetic information,” Dordick says, noting that most drugs on the market today are “one size fits all.” —- Now that could be something over the coming years. If we have our genetic makeup embedded in such chips and drug companies start developing molecules customized to our code, will that change the dynamics of drug development significantly. Is custom drug through custom tests the next generation of development ahead? That’s where I will be interested. And guess what – one field that will be greatly leveraged is clinical informatics and bio- informatics.

Similar article of Interest:

Biomedical Engineers’ ‘Body-on-a-Chip’ Could Reduce Cost of Developing New Drugs

Posted in biotech, health, Innovation, Medicine, nanotechnology | Leave a Comment »

A tribute to Mr. Hans Rosling – Thanks for enabling the war on poverty better

Posted by evolvingwheel on December 16, 2007

I spent sometime learning what Mr. Hans Rosling is up-to, and that’s too for last 30 years. This incredible human being has collected the numbers of different indexes of poverty, education, income, export, import, healthcare, mortality, and what not. And he has come up with a dynamic representation of a perplexing view of changing time-line of economic/wealth growth of different countries in an application called Trend-alyzer, recently bought by Google. Discover Magazine recently covered him. Find the link [here] with an interview with Rosling. hans_rosling.jpg

Rosling created an animation of all the eco-social data points translating decades of development of individual countries into a time series. But it is more than that. As I watched his video, what struck me is the detail of the message embedded in an evolving path. All the data will now be available for free and social enterprises, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and other parties can use them to develop economic policies, social instruments, and technological devices to appropriately address different pressing issues across the world. I believe that this will greatly benefit the understanding of the intricacies of an emerging world. In fact, one other aspect of this development is the possibility of crafting efficient flow of capital and resources through FDI (foreign direct investment) or philanthropy.

I visited Rosling’s blog and I would highly recommend you to visit too. A good collection of different discussions, literature, and Rosling’s innovative ideas to address global poverty and healthcare. The first thing that came across my mind is how we could use his data points and develop efficient and innovative ideas to bring sophisticated services and technologies where they are most needed. How could this data help us to device cost effectiveness of any proposed solution in those parts of the world where help is critically needed. Whatever way we proceed, his numbers will give us a live gauge of the pulse of these regions in a more vivid manner. THANK YOU Mr. Rosling.

Posted in drugs, Environment, health, Infrared, Innovation, poverty, Soccer, social innovation | Leave a Comment »

A new test to diagnose heart failures better

Posted by evolvingwheel on November 29, 2007

With a special interest for remote healthcare and innovative diagnostics, this news couldn’t go past me. A group of researchers at the University of Leeds have come up with a new technique that helps to identify the difference between a heart attack potential and a chest pain due to other causes. Currently, when a patient lands up in the Er with chest pain, the physician administers a troponin test which can detect and evaluate heart injury and separate it from other chest pains. The test looks for troponin protein in the blood, which is generated when heart cells have died. However this test is not comprehensive and can give both false negatives and false positives. The predictor looks for the protein and only isolates between a scenario of real heart damage and a case of chest pain with no death of heart cells yet. It misses the spectrum in between.

A new test has been developed by the team that looks for a heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP) which is released into the circulation following heart injury (myocardial ischemia). According to Alistair Hall, Professor of Clinical Cardiology at Leeds “The H-FABP test is a major advance on what we had before. It appears to be able to detect milder and earlier degrees of heart injury than do current tests which detect heart cell death.

The uniqueness of the test lies in its ability to identify patients whose chest pains are an indication that they are susceptible to heart attack in the following weeks or months. The aspect of prevention makes this test a winner. It not only saves lives, but also saves money and unnecessary services. I will look forward to the eventual commercialization of such a test with an affordable price proposition. And then if such a test can be made portable and easy to administer at the point of care, i.e., homes.

Read the article [here].

Posted in blood, diagnosis, health, Medicine | Leave a Comment »

Should we be worried? Banked blood loses potency fast!

Posted by evolvingwheel on October 17, 2007

This news is up in the channels – about banked blood losing its ability to deliver oxygen to tissues after transfusion. Result: patients receiving tranfusions are more prone to strokes, heart attacks, and often even deaths. The cited reason is the loss of nitric oxide from blood after the RBC leaves the body. Nitric oxide is the oxygen carrier. Dr. Jonathan Stamler, a Duke researcher, has found that ability of the blood cells to deliver oxygen drops pretty fast after the blood has been removed from the source body. Stamler has also noted that if nitric oxide is added back, the banked blood regains this ability. Read the article [here].

I have several questions about this research:

  1. What kind of manifestations are seen when banked blood is first introduced to the receiver’s body and to what degree do these manifestations get debilitating with time?
  2. Did the receiving patient has any pre-disposition to any disease that got triggered for some other reason and henceforth produced a negative impact on the heart?
  3. Will a small transfusion for a relatively smaller wound produce a long-term negative impact in the receiver’s body?
  4. Bottom Line – Should I be worried? 

There is a WSJ blog that talks about this finding and exhanges some nice views.

Another group at Duke, led by Timothy McMahon, MD, PhD, found that red blood cells in banked blood lost some of their flexibility in storage. That process happened more slowly than SNO-Hb loss in banked blood. According to McMohan, replenishing SNO-Hb may enable RBC to stay flexible to carry oxygen to the tissues.

A relevant article on artificial blood posted earlier: Oxycyte™ – Just another invention or a better substitute for blood?

Posted in blood, health, Medicine | Leave a Comment »