Top Medical Innovations 2012

Jan 01, 2012

CATHETER-BASED RENAL DENERVATION
TOP 10 RANKING: #1
WHAT IT'S FOR: CONTROLLING RESISTANT HYPERTENSION

Why it's needed: One in three adult Americans has high blood pressure, or hypertension, which can lead to strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure. Hypertension—not smoking—is the No. 1 risk factor for death in the world.

How it works: Small nerves that carry signals between the brain and kidneys—known as the renal sympathetic system—play a role in the regulation of blood pressure levels. Research has shown that disrupting these nerve fibers can positively
affect blood pressure levels, and now there's a 40-minute procedure available to do just that. A catheter-based probe, via the femoral artery in the upper thigh, is threaded up into the renal artery near each kidney. Then, low-power radio-frequency energy is used to manipulate the sympathetic nerves. "Not only is renal denervation a new treatment avenue that causes significant drops in blood pressure, it also has shown promising results for treating chronic kidney disease, insulin resistance, and heart failure," says the Cleveland Clinic.

CONCUSSION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR ATHLETES
TOP 10 RANKING: #3
WHAT IT'S FOR: PROTECTING ATHLETES FROM BRAIN INJURY


(Getty Images / Digital Vision)
Why it's needed: Behind car accidents, sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury, specifically concussions. The CDC estimates nearly 4 million sports- and recreations-related concussions occur each year. Injury occurance is exacerbated when atheletes remain in the game, unaware of a concussion.

How it works: The concussion management system is the first high-tech assessment tool that objectively and accurately assesses cognitive and motor function simultaneously. The system hinges on an instrumented mouth guard dosimeter that records all hits to the head, monitoring and reporting impact data in real time, via Bluetooth. The device looks exactly like an ordinary mouth guard.

HARNESSING BIG DATA
TOP 10 RANKING: #8
WHAT IT'S FOR: DRAMATIC HEALTHCARE SAVINGS AND BETTER HEALTH OUTCOMES

Why it's needed: Big Data, or the terabytes and even petabytes of data being generated by healthcare systems including hospitals and biopharmaceutical and medical device companies, is largely an untapped resource; the data has surpassed the analytic systems needed for evaluation. McKinsey & Co. estimates that proper aggregation and analysis of Big Data would create more than $300 billion in value each year, mostly by reducing healthcare expenditures by almost 8 percent.

How it works: Using an advanced computing infrastructure, at least one company was recently formed to "act as both a repository and clearinghouse of data coming from different clinics, hospitals, researchers, and doctor's offices," by standardizing and aggregating the data, for use by subscribing member health systems. An online interface allows for "real-time search, tagging, and collaboration across some of the largest data sets in the world," says the Cleveland Clinic.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED MOSQUITOES TO REDUCE DISEASE THREAT
TOP 10 RANKING: #10
WHAT IT'S FOR: PREVENTING THE TRANSMISSION OF MALARIA BY CONTROLLING MOSQUITOS, THE WORLD'S DEADLIEST PESTS


(Getty Images / Steve Gschmeissner)
Why it's needed: Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and yellow fever kill more people than any other disease. Malaria affects over 300 million people annually, and kills close to 800,000 each year. Traditional attempts to control mosquitos—such as insecticides, nets, and the draining of swamps—have failed to swat these bloodsuckers.

How it works: Scientists manipulate the DNA of male mosquitos to make them sterile—only females bite humans—and then release them to mate with wild female mosquitos, causing a dramatic population drop. "In the future, it's hoped that releasing modified mosquitos into the wild, whose genes cause female mosquitos to die in the embryonic stage, would eventually result in a major sex imbalance in the area," says the Cleveland Clinic.