A smartphone’s wild ride through a hospital’s pneumatic tube system

Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have investigated a strange mystery involving blood samples by sending smartphones hurtling through the hospital’s pneumatic tube system. And in so doing, they have developed a tool that could be of importance to hospitals around the world.

The researchers conducted the tests after a small number of blood samples were found to be damaged after being delivered through the hospital’s pneumatic tube system. This was odd, as the tube system has been in use for many years without such a problem. (Similar systems are in use in hospitals around the world — and at banks, to many a child’s delight.) Something had clearly gone wrong.

Seeking to understand the source of the problem, the UVA team looked for a diagnostic tool. When they couldn’t find anything designed for the tube system, James H. Harrison Jr., MD, PhD, came up with a daring idea: What if they used a smartphone’s accelerometer to assess the forces acting on the blood samples during transit? There were apps for smartphones that record forces, so it seemed feasible. But could a smartphone withstand the kinds of forces that occur in a pneumatic tube system? There was just one way to find out.

Having recently upgraded their smartphones, Garrett R. Mullins, PhD, a clinical chemistry postdoctoral fellow, and David Bruns, MD, a professor of pathology, brought in their old smartphones. Mullins strapped his old phone into one of the canisters used to transport blood samples through the tubes and sent it on its way. “I probably wasn’t as worried about it as I should have been,” he recalled.

The phone, however, emerged safely, carrying valuable data on the forces within the tube system. To visualize what happens to a blood sample during transit through the system, Mullins used the two smartphones, one to record a video and the other to illuminate the blood sample. Bruns jokingly says he was “absolutely appalled” at the prospect of his phone going into the tube system.

To Mullins’ good fortune, both phones arrived intact. The resulting video shows the blood sample rocketing along, encountering turbulence along the way. And the investigations gave the inquisitive investigators the data they needed to create a hypothesis about what was happening: Blood samples can be shipped without incident except through the longest route in the tube system.
Valuable tool for hospitals

Since their initial experiments, Mullins and Bruns have sent phones through the tubes dozens of times, and, amazingly, not once has a screen arrived broken. The worst damage has been some minor scratches. As such, they have created an unorthodox but easy and inexpensive way for hospitals to monitor their tube systems and ensure the integrity of blood samples.
Still, they recommend that their colleagues at other hospitals might want to use an old phone and not a new one, just in case.

More details can be found from UVA Health System website by following this link.

A short video explaining this test can be viewed here:

FDA approves diagnostic kit for rare tumor detection

With headquarter in France, Advanced Accelerator Applications S.A. (“AAA” or “the Company”) announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved NETSPOT (Somakit-TATE) for the localization of somatostatin receptor positive neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) in adult and pediatric patients. NETSPOT received approval following a Priority Review from the FDA.

NETSPOT is the new market name for Somakit-TATE (a kit for the preparation of gallium Ga 68 dotatate injection) in the US. NETSPOT is the first approved drug using Ga 68 as a positron emitter. Gallium Ga 68 dotatate received Orphan Drug Designation from both the FDA and European Medicines Agency (EMA) in March 2014.

Following the approval, NETSPOT will be made available to the US market as soon as possible. AAA intends to commercialize the product in the US in two forms: As a kit for reconstitution using a Ga 68 generator, and as NETSPOT Injection, a ready-to-use dose delivered from a local adiopharmacy in selected metropolitan areas.

NETSPOT is currently approved for use with the GalliaPharm Ga 68 generator from Eckert & Ziegler.

“The FDA approval of NETSPOT is a key milestone in our mission of improving the lives of NET patients,” said Stefano Buono, Chief Executive Officer of AAA. “NETSPOT has the potential to significantly improve the accuracy of NET diagnosis, while reducing radiation exposure for patients. We believe that the use of NETSPOT should also offer increased comfort for patients by potentially shortening a procedure that is currently performed over 24 hours or more to just a few hours.”

The estimated incidence of NETs for the combined populations of the United States and the European Union is approximately 47,300 patients/year.1 Even though NETs have historically been considered as rare tumors (orphan disease) their incidence has grown over 500% over the last 3 decades.

New wearable devices aim to predict and prevent asthma attacks

Researchers have developed an integrated, wearable system that monitors a user’s environment, heart rate and other physical attributes with the goal of predicting and preventing asthma attacks. The researchers plan to begin testing the system on a larger subject population this summer.

The system, called the Health and Environmental Tracker (HET), is composed of a suite of new sensor devices and was developed by researchers from the National Science Foundation’s Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) at North Carolina State University.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma affects more than 24 million people in the United States. Asthma patients currently rely on inhalers to deal with their symptoms, which can include often-debilitating asthma attacks.

“Our goal was to design a wearable system that could track the wellness of the subjects and in particular provide the infrastructure to predict asthma attacks, so that the users could take steps to prevent them by changing their activities or environment,” says Alper Bozkurt, the principal investigator of a paper describing the work and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State.

“Preventing an attack could be as simple as going indoors or taking a break from an exercise routine,” says James Dieffenderfer, lead author of the paper and a Ph.D. student in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The HET system incorporates a host of novel sensing devices, which are incorporated into a wristband and a patch that adheres to the chest.

The patch includes sensors that track a patient’s movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, the amount of oxygen in the blood, skin impedance and wheezing in the lungs.

The wristband focuses largely on environmental factors, monitoring volatile organic compounds and ozone in the air, as well as ambient humidity and temperature. The wristband also includes additional sensors to monitor motion, heart rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood.

The system also has one nonwearable component: a spirometer, which patients breathe into several times a day to measure lung function.

“Right now, people with asthma are asked to use a peak flow meter to measure lung function on a day-to-day basis,” Dieffenderfer says. “That information is used to inform the dosage of prescription drugs used in their inhalers.

“For HET, we developed a customized self-powered spirometer, which collects more accurate information on lung function and feeds that data into the system,” Dieffenderfer adds.

Data from all of these sensors is transmitted wirelessly to a computer, where custom software collects and records the data.

“The uniqueness of this work is not simply the integration of various sensors in wearable form factors,” says Veena Misra, co-author of the paper and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. “The impact here is that we have been able to demonstrate power consumption levels that are in the sub-milliwatt levels by using nano-enabled novel sensor technologies. Comparable, existing devices have power consumption levels in the hundreds of milliwatts.

“This ultra-low power consumption is important because it gives the devices a long battery life, and will make them compatible with the power generated by the body – which is not a lot,” says Misra, who is also the director of the ASSIST Center. “It enables a pathway to realize the ASSIST Center’s vision of wearable sensors powered by energy from the body in the near future.”

“We have tested the system in the benchtop and on a limited number of human subjects for proof of concept demonstration and have confirmed that all of the sensors work, and that the system accurately compiles the data,” Misra says. “This summer, we plan to begin testing HET in a controlled environment with subjects suffering from asthma and a control group, in order to identify which environmental and physiological variables are effective at predicting asthma attacks.”

“Once we have that data, the center can begin developing software that will track user data automatically and give users advance warning of asthma attacks,” says Bozkurt, who as testbed leader of the ASSIST Center is overseeing HET system integration. “And that software will allow users to synch the HET to their smartphones so that they can monitor their health on the go. After these tests are completed, and the prediction software created, we are hoping that a fully functional HET system will be available.”

More information can be found from NC State Universtiy website by following this link.

Nestlé and DBV Technologies to develop diagnostic tool for Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy

Nestlé Health Science announced that it has entered into a strategic collaboration with DBV Technologies, headquartered in Montrouge, France, aimed at developing and bringing to market DBV’s innovative patch-test tool for the diagnosis of Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) in infants.

CMPA is a difficult to diagnose condition, which impacts up to 2-3%1 of infants and young children during a critical stage of their development. DBV will leverage its proprietary Viaskin® technology platform to develop an innovative, ready-to-use, standardized atopy patch-test.

Today, CMPA is often missed in the primary care settings due to the non-specific nature of symptoms associated with the condition, such as eczema, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, crying and others. In 2015, Nestlé Health Science made a first step forward in addressing this difficulty through the Cow’s Milk-related Symptom Score (CoMiSS®) awareness tool, developed by leading international experts to help healthcare professionals earlier recognize and assess symptoms that may be related to CMPA in infants and young children.

In the future, DBV’s patch-test will enable early and accurate diagnosis of the condition, leading to early nutritional intervention, thereby creating a strong fit with Nestlé Health Science’s nutritional solutions that helps meet the needs of babies and children with food allergies and intolerances (Althéra®, Alfaré®, Alfamino®).

Under the terms of the agreement, DBV grants Nestlé Health Science exclusive worldwide commercialization rights of DBV’s diagnostic tool. Nestlé Health Science will make an upfront payment of EUR 10 million. DBV will be responsible for the development stages, including industrialization and regulatory submissions. Moreover, DBV is eligible to receive development milestones, and if approved, sales milestones and royalty payments on sales.

Greg Behar, CEO of Nestlé Health Science, said: “This innovation can become the breakthrough diagnostic for CMPA. Early diagnosis and nutritional intervention helps get infants happily back on the path of healthy development, alleviate the anxieties of parents, and reduce healthcare costs. Our reach in the field of pediatric allergy makes Nestlé Health Science an ideal commercialization partner for DVB’s innovative diagnostic patch. This collaboration is another step in our strategy of advancing the role of nutrition through science-based innovation.”

DBV Technology’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Pierre-Henri Benhamou, said, “Improving the lives of those suffering from food allergies is DBV’s mission, and through this exciting partnership with Nestlé Health Science, we are further showcasing our portfolio of potentially transformational and cutting-edge products. Combining DBV’s innovative and proprietary technology with Nestlé Health Science’s global presence and expertise in nutritional therapies is a synergistic approach that we believe has the potential to improve the overall health of our patients.”

A press release can be found from Nestlé website by following this link.

Gene helps prevent heart attack, stroke and effects of aging

A gene that scientific dogma insists is inactive in adults actually plays a vital role in preventing the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes, researchers at the School of Medicine have determined. The discovery opens a new avenue for battling those deadly conditions, and it raises the tantalizing prospect that doctors could use the gene to prevent or delay at least some of the effects of aging.

“Finding a way to augment the expression of this gene in adult cells may have profound implications for promoting health and possibly reversing some of the detrimental effects with aging,” said researcher Gary K. Owens, PhD, director of UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center.

Researchers Olga A. Cherepanova, PhD, and Gary K. Owens, PhD, found that a particular gene was vital in heart attack and stroke prevention

The gene, Oct4, plays a key role in the development of all living organisms, but scientists have, until now, thought it was permanently inactivated after embryonic development. Some controversial studies have suggested it might have another function later in life, but the UVA researchers are the first to provide conclusive evidence of that: Owens and his colleagues have determined the gene plays a critical protective role during the formation of atherosclerotic plaques inside blood vessels. The rupturing of these plaques is the underlying cause of many heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found that Oct4 controls the movement of smooth muscle cells into protective fibrous “caps” inside the plaques – caps that make the plaques less likely to rupture. The researchers also have provided evidence that the gene promotes many changes in gene expression that are beneficial in stabilizing the plaques. This is exciting, because studies suggest that it may be possible to develop drugs or other therapeutic agents that target the Oct4 pathway as a means to reduce the incidence of heart attacks or stroke. “Our findings have major implications regarding possible novel therapeutic approaches for promoting stabilization of atherosclerotic plaques,” said Olga A. Cherepanova, PhD, a senior research scientist in Owens’ lab.

One surprising finding from UVA’s research: When the researchers blocked the effect of Oct4 in mice, they thought the atherosclerotic plaques might become smaller, because of the reduced number of smooth muscle cells inside. Instead, the plaques grew larger, less stable and more dangerous, stuffed with lipids, dead cells and other damaging components.

While UVA’s research has focused on how Oct4 offers cardiovascular protection, Owens and his colleagues believe the gene could also prove critical to the field of regenerative medicine, which investigates the growth and replacement of tissues and organs. The researchers believe that Oct4 and its family of target genes are activated in other somatic cells – the non-reproductive cells in the body – and play a key role in the cells’ ability to repair damage and heal wounds. Studies to test this are under way in Owens’ lab.

Oct4 is one of the “stem cell pluripotency factors” described by Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, for which he received the 2012 Nobel Prize. His lab and many others have shown that artificial over-expression of Oct4 within somatic cells grown in a lab dish is essential for reprogramming these cells into induced pluripotential stem cells, which can then develop into any cell type in the body or even an entire organism.

The UVA researchers suspect that at least some of the detrimental effects of aging, including the increased possibility of a plaque rupture, stem from a decrease in the body’s ability to reactivate Oct4. “Finding a way to reactivate this pathway may have profound implications for health and aging,” Owens said. “We think this is just the tip of the iceberg for controlling plasticity of somatic cells, and this could impact many human diseases and the field of regenerative medicine. Who knows, this may end up being the ‘fountain-of-youth gene,’ a way to revitalize old and worn-out cells. Only time will tell.”

More details can be found from UVA Health System website by clicking here.

Philips launches handheld rapid blood test for heart attack diagnosis

Philips announced the launch of a new handheld blood test, the Minicare I-20 system, for rapid diagnosis of a heart attack at the point of care. The new test is being introduced in selected countries in Europe including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, with introduction in other European countries following in due course. As a result, patients with chest pain presenting at the emergency department are set to benefit from this major innovation, which Philips has recently CE marked for compliance with the European in vitro diagnostic medical devices directive. The handheld Minicare I-20 system measures the level of cardiac troponin I (cTnI), a protein that is excreted by the heart muscle into the blood following a heart attack. It delivers test results, comparable with those obtained by laboratory testing, in less than 10 minutes near the patient, reducing the time for a physician to decide on the appropriate treatment pathway.


The Minicare I-20 system is the latest innovation to come out of Philips’ global R&D and new business development programs in the area of point-of-care testing and monitoring applications for the hospital and the home. It consists of a connected handheld analyzer, dedicated software, and a single-use disposable cartridge containing an application specific test based on Philips’ proprietary biosensor technology.

“The commercial launch of the Minicare I-20 system for cardiac troponin I testing represents a major milestone for us,” said Marcel van Kasteel, CEO of Handheld Diagnostics at Philips. “I am convinced that we will be able to make a real difference for patients and care providers. Minicare I-20 is designed to help care providers reduce both the time-to-treatment and time-to-discharge of patients, thereby helping to reduce crowding in emergency departments and improve the utilization of hospital resources.”

“Blood samples are usually analyzed in the hospital laboratory, and it can easily take more than an hour to get the result back to the emergency department physician,” said Dr. Paul Collinson, Consultant Chemical Pathologist at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UK). “Point-of-care testing can significantly help to reduce the turnaround time.”

The Minicare I-20 was tested in real-life acute care settings within the European Lab2Go project, a consortium of European hospitals. The study showed the potential of Philips Minicare cTnI system to accurately measure cTnI values, near the patient in the emergency department, with a turnaround time of less than 10 minutes.

A press release can be found from Philips website by following this link.