What technologies will hit the market in the year to come? What influence will they exert on the treatment of patients and medical industry as a whole? We hereby introduce you the list of top 10 innovations that are considerably superior to well-established medical practices. They are more convenient for the users, they improve the medical care quality and have high commercial potential.
World’s first “artificial pancreas”
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first hybrid closed-loop insulin delivery system for the patients with Diabetes mellitus type 1.
A set of equipment (continuous glucose monitoring device + insulin pump) works on the same principle as the closed-loop system and automatically performs three functions at once: measures the level of blood glucose, determines the demand and injects the required amount of insulin. This is much more convenient than the traditional approach, when each action shall be performed separately. The system may be considered to be of hybrid type, since the patient shall manually enter the desired nutrition schedule and demand the insulin injection.
The system is easy-to-use, portable and pocket-sized. It was experimentally proved that the new development helps to stabilize blood sugar level: among the adolescents – from 7,7% to 7,1%, among the adults – from 7,3% to 6,8%.
Positive study results resulted in a situation where the FDA has approved the technology earlier than it was expected. Therefore, as early as 2018 the system will be market available, which will undoubtedly simplify the life of people with Diabetes mellitus. Experts believe that the success of this development will boost the emergence of similar product for people with Diabetes mellitus type 2.
Neuromodulation to treat obstructive sleep apnea
Traditional method of apnea treatment, CPAP, is not suitable for everyone. It has such side effects as unwanted noise, pressure intolerance, mask irritation, claustrophobia, nasal congestion, dry mouth, etc. Nearly 40% of patients say that they involuntarily remove their masks while they are sleeping.
Such state of affairs has induced innovators to look for a more effective treatment method. As a consequence, neuromodulation system has appeared.
Even now you may purchase the implant that stimulates the airway muscles throughout the night. This system consists of breathing sensor and a stimulation lead powered by a battery. It is controlled by remote or wearable patch. During sleep, the systems sense breathing patterns and deliver mild stimulation to the tongue and throat to keep the airway open. Surgery to implant these new sleep apnea devices is minimally invasive. Positive results from clinical testing of this therapy include high percent reductions in both apnea-hypopnea index, the marker of sleep apnea severity, and oxygen desaturation events from the baseline.
It is expected that the new neuromodulation system will become the key method to treat obstructive sleep apnea and will help millions of persons suffering from such sleep disorders.
Record-breaking reduction of LDL cholesterol
The negative consequences of LDL cholesterol accumulation are widely-known. This causes atherosclerosis, which impedes blood flow through arteries in the heart, brain, kidney, and extremities. The result can be carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, angina, chronic kidney disease, or coronary heart disease, which takes a heavy toll of human lives every year.
Over the course of decades scientists and doctors are working on LDL cholesterol lowering. The first substantive results were achieved in 1986, when the first statin was approved. Statin blocks the enzyme, used by the liver to make cholesterol. In past few years medical scientists has developed the first pharmaceutical of inhibitors type, which is primarily intended to treat patients genetically predisposed to LDL cholesterol increase and with statin intolerance.
The study showed the unprecedented reduction of LDL cholesterol ‒ by 75%, while no major side effects were detected. This treatment shows 20% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction or stroke. This means that dozens and hundreds of lives may be saved.
Patient’s condition monitoring and home treatment are the everlasting goals of many doctors and scientists. This is rather convenient, since it allows for the timely and prompt patient care. Moreover, distance treatment helps to monitor the state of the patients that recently had their surgeries, seriously ill patients, and weak persons. This saves money and time in a great measure.
Trials and experiments of distance treatment system were conducted during the past few years. Experts believe the most essential element, however, is the mobile technologies, since most of the persons keep hold of their smartphones all the time.
What is this system about? First of all, this is two-way video platform between the patient and the doctor, as well as remote monitoring of the patient’s health by means of attached devices. This means that at any given time the patient may contact his doctor and get his express advice. The doctor, for his part, may monitor the vital indications of the patient online and may provide timely medical assistance.
Next generation vaccination
Recent world events, such as epidemic outbreaks of Ebola and Zika, has shown that society cannot afford to waste years in the search of vaccines against diseases. To reduce the scale of the epidemics, we shall not only speed up vaccines development process, but to simplify the procedure for their delivery as well.
In 2018, innovators will be upgrading the entire vaccine development system to support the rapid development of new vaccines, as well as breaking ground on new delivering mechanisms to vast populations.
In recent years, faster ways to develop influenza vaccines were found. Nowadays, researches are being conducted using tobacco plants, insects, and nanoparticle systems, rather than chicken eggs, as it was done before. These new methods not only save time, but money as well, since they are cheaper than the usual ones.
To simplify the delivery and increase the shelf life of vaccines, innovators decided to use freeze drying of vaccines which can allow delivery of more vaccines to epidemic areas and to extend their shelf life.
Statistics shows that millions of people refuse to be vaccinated simply because they do not like injections. Therefore, scientists are working on the development of peroral and intranasal vaccines.
These new ways to develop, deliver, and administer vaccines may prevent from or, at least, scale back the number of epidemics and diseases thought the globe.
Targeted breast cancer therapy
The most full-scale war on breast cancer is currently underway. Chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and radiation are still valuable options to treat this disease and have successful outcomes. However, throughout the years targeted cancer therapy remains to be the dream of both doctors, and patients as well. In the past few years, many other cancers have seen the benefits of these therapies, including leukemia, prostate, and ovarian cancers. In 2018 doctors are going to treat breast cancer in such a manner.
For patients that are BRCA1 or BRCA2 positive, in other words for those, who have genetic disposition to ovarian cancer and breast cancer, there is now hope to be healed. While first-line cancer DNA-creating proteins are often dismantled by chemotherapy, BRCA genes have a backup up plan to repair that DNA, carried out by poly-ADP-ribose polymerases (PARPs). In 2017, results showed that breast cancer patients treated with PARP inhibitor alone received 7 months of progression-free-survival as compared with 4 months for patients who received only chemotherapy. This brings hope that cancer treatment will soon break new ground.
HER2-positive breast cancer is named for an overabundant protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells. Targeted therapy, however, demonstrates positive results, especially in combination with chemotherapy. One study showed long term remissions in several patients, who had undergone the combination therapy.
Patients with ER-Positive / HER2-negative breast cancer also have reason to be hopeful. In 2018, there will be three new inhibitors on the market, which will affect this type of cancer. Experts believe that all these achievements in the field of targeted cancer therapy will result in complete refusal from the chemotherapy.
Cooling for reducing chemotherapy induced hair loss
Cancer patients have a lot to process. For women, the inevitable loss of hair is often one of the hardest. The new technology that helps to combat this problem has already emerged on the American market.
Scalp cooling system has proved to be effective for preserving hair in women receiving neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. During the trial, women, who were treated with scalp cooling, wore a helmet with circulating cooling fluid. Experts believe that cold-induced cutaneous vasoconstriction and reduced biochemical activity help to decrease susceptibility of hair follicles to damage.
During the trial, women wore a helmet for 30 minutes before chemotherapy, during the treatment, and for 90 minutes after the completion of chemotherapy. The interim results showed that 50,5% of the patients were able to preserve their hair, while 100%, who did not wore a helmet, have lost their hair.
The scalp cooling system has not proven effective for every patient and shall be used for certain chemotherapy types. However, in May 2017 it was approved by the FDA.
Centralized monitoring of patients’ condition
The study conducted by the American Heart Association revealed that 44% of inpatient cardiac arrests are not detected in proper time. Consequently, almost half of the patients do not receive timely medical aid.
Centralized monitoring has become the development that may save lives of millions of people having heart attacks. To perform this study, off-site personnel used advanced equipment, including sensors and high-definition cameras to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, heart rhythm, respiration, pulse oximetry, etc. The system gives signals upon detection of dangerous markers. For the first 13 months of the study that involved 100,000 patients the system managed to detect and report about 79% events of heart attack.
Since then, the monitoring system was improved, which enabled to double the number of monitored patients per technician, improve clinical outcomes, and decrease communication transit times.
The experts predict that in 2018 the system named “eye in the sky” will be implemented by many hospitals around the globe and will save lives of millions of people.
Rapid recovery after surgery
Over the course of decades, the pre-and post-surgery routine has been common for nearly all procedures: no eating before surgery, use painkillers and stay in bed until recovery. These guidelines were considered to be the best ways to avoid complications.
However, several medical centers have taken on the task of Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program development. This methodology provides for the reduction of opioid prescriptions. Alternative pharmaceuticals are prescribed, multimodal analgesia is used. Patients are also given a post-surgery nutrition plan and physical activity plan. Recent studies and experiments showed that ERAS reduces complication rates and accelerates recovery after surgery. Patients get better and get rid of nausea, muscle atrophy, infection occurs more rarely, and are discharged from hospital faster.
Yet one study involving 9,000 patients, showed a drop in surgical complications by one-third. What is more, the number of opioid prescriptions was reduced by 21%. Another study, which was reported in the Journal of American Medical Association, demonstrated a decrease in mortality in colorectal resection patients. The patients covered by ERAS program usually return home within 2-3 days after the surgery.
In 2017 collaborations were formed in the USA between surgical societies and large healthcare systems to drive funding and education for hospitals looking to implement new system on a larger scale.
Gene therapy for inherited retinal diseases
It is expected that in 2018 FDA will approve the use of gene therapy.
So far there are no effective methods to treat inherited retinal diseases that cause vision loss. Scientists and doctors hope that the concept of using viruses or vectors to deliver required genes, that may help to fight off eye diseases, to targeted cells, will reverse the loss of vision in some patients.
It is expected that the use of recombinant AAV2 vector encoding a functional copy of the RPE65 gene will be approved to treat inherited retinal diseases. Examples of this disease include some retinitis pigmentosa forms. This disease is more common and affects adults. This condition causes the rod photoreceptor cells to die first, resulting in night blindness and a loss of visual field. Eventually, the cones are also lost, making vision severely limited. Sooner or later complete blindness occurs.
In 2017, the FDA awarded orphan drug status to RPE65 gene therapy, and in October, a panel of U.S. health advisors recommended approval for these innovative approaches to inherited retinal diseases.