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10 healthcare advances in 2017

Tagged In:  NHS

This has been another year of breakthroughs and innovations in the healthcare sector. Here's a brief round-up of some of the stories and announcements that have made the news over the last few months...

1. Making treatment fun for children with CF

Microsoft Research has partnered with physiotherapists at University College London on the 'Fizzyo' project, which uses inhalers linked to computer games to motivate children with cystic fibrosis (CF) to do their daily breathing exercises. 

2. Stimulating the brain after a stroke

Researchers in Cincinnati, USA have been trialling a non-invasive brain stimulation process for stroke rehabilitation. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) sends low-frequency, painless magnetic pulses through a device placed on the head for 15 minutes while the patient works with an occupational therapist to focus on improving hand and arm function.

3. NHS to fund health apps

NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, recently announced that the Innovation and Technology Tariff would be extended to primary care, enabling GPs to be reimbursed for prescribed digital apps that help patients manage long-term conditions.

4. Fantasy becomes reality

In the original Star Trek TV series, 'Bones' McCoy used a hand-held scanner called a tricorder to record and relay medical information. Now doctors and RGNs in the real world could soon be using such a device, thanks to the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize competition. The winners' prototypes have taken us one step further towards realising creator Gene Roddenberry's 23rd century sci-fi vision.

5. Link between mental illness and heart disease

An international study of more than 3.2 million people with severe mental illness (SMI) has revealed a substantially increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to the general population. Led by psychiatrists with support from doctors and RMNs across the country, from King's College, London, the research showed that people with SMI were 53% more likely to develop CVD than healthy control groups.

6. Medical scans assessed by AI

Imperial College London's Dr Ben Glocker has received a European Research Council grant to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technology to analyse and interpret medical scans with super-human performance. The aim is to support radiographers and radiologists by enabling fast, automated analysis of scans and cross-referencing of results to improve diagnosis, therapy and treatment of complex diseases.

7. Almonds are good for your heart

Recent research from Penn State University confirms what many nutritionists and dietitians have been saying for some time: eating almonds can help lower your cholestrol and protect against heart disease.

8. Understanding the brain

Newcastle University scientists contributed to a groundbreaking study, published in April this year, revealing for the first time how the brain is able to predict what is coming next when another person is talking. It's hoped that the research could eventually help speech and language therapists more effectively support stroke patients or people living with dementia as well as RNLDs throughout the NHS.

9. Mums OK to use mobile phones

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) recently highlighted new research showing that maternal use of mobile phones during pregnancy is not likely to cause any adverse effects on a child’s neurodevelopment.

10. New cancer drug

Biomedical researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found a way to target an enzyme that is crucial to tumor growth. As a result, they've developed a drug that successfully inhibits tumor growth of melanoma as well as pancreatic and colorectal cancer in mice.

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