Sunday, January 25, 2009

NIH Releases Report

NIH has just released a report that summarizes NIH technology developments. Today, technology development, basic research, and clinical applications drive biomedical research and enables scientists and clinicians to use sophisticated tools to unravel fundamental biological questions.

The report mentions that technological developments in electrodes computers, and materials were critical in understanding abnormal heart rhythms. These basic technological developments are now used to treat abnormal heart rhythms by using advanced imaging and ablation techniques.

In other developments, advances in fiber-optic and wireless communications devices now enable physicians to engage in telemedicine in Tucson, Arizona. A breast health center provides does same-day mammograms, is able to do biopsies, and diagnosis breast cancer using a pathology tool developed by NIH funded engineers. By combining rapid tissue processing with telepathology and teleoncology, cancer diagnosis times have dropped to a matter of hours rather than a one to two week wait.

The report notes that point-of-care technologies now range from handheld glucose monitoring systems to laptop-sized ultrasound scanners. On the horizon a laboratory analyzer is being developed with NIH support to identify specific bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections in a few minutes.

Other breakthroughs in this field include:

  • Using wearable upper extremity robotic devices to mimic normal arm movements for stroke survivors
  • The ability to communicate via a brain/computer interface for individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other neuromuscular disorders
  • Using an integrated imaging system with precision-guided surgery to remove seizure causing regions in the brain
  • Developing sensor technologies combining multiple analytical functions into self- contained portable tabletop devices to be used by non-specialists to rapidly detect and diagnose disease
  • Developing new diagnostic and imaging methods to detect cancer and other diseases early

The report notes that while some of these technologies have experienced widespread acceptance, several barriers must be overcome to make point-of-care diagnostics the norm such as:

  • Combining individual components into fully integrated systems that can handle all aspects of analysis
  • Capturing data from these devices and transmitting the data to clinical information systems
  • Facilitating assessment of clinical opportunities in point-of-care testing to guide the development of emerging technologies
  • Developing infrastructure to create multidisciplinary research collaborations to facilitate clinical testing early in the development process
  • Being able to validate results from point-of-care technologies
  • Being able to prove that point-of-care testing provides a clinical benefit over analysis at a central laboratory

The complete report is available through the Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT) web site at