While its not saturating the headlines as it was just months ago, Ebola is still a threat to global health. There are a number of challenges that come with fighting the deadly virus, ranging from lacking advances in drug treatments to social issues that affect its spread and control.
The recent outbreak has been tragic but it’s also given health officials, scientists and doctors a clearer picture of how we can improve the efforts and elements needed to fight Ebola and similar illnesses.
Just one factor in the fight is the suit that healthcare workers wear when treating patients. As doctors and designers looked closer at that form of protection, they found plenty of room for improvement.
Major Flaws To Design Away
There are two significant problems found with the conventional anti-contaminant suit. First, is in how the wearer experiences it. Apart from being uncomfortable, poorly ventilated, and a challenge to move and work in, the standard suits didn’t provide ideal levels of protection.
A zippered front and exposed areas between goggles, face mask, and the suit’s hood make it difficult to minimize exposure, especially during removal. The longer the wearer stays in the suit, the hotter, foggier, and more uncomfortable it becomes.
Suits can typically only be worn for about forty-five minutes at a time, which can be a major hinderance in urgent medical situations.
Considering Inside And Outside
The other issues lie in how a non-healthcare worker experiences an Ebola suit. For patients, their families, and locals living in communities with Ebola clinics, teams of people dressed alike with their faces hidden can add to fear and misconceptions that come with disease outbreaks.
For those who are skeptical of the intentions of healthcare workers while so many around them become ill, a face hidden behind goggles and a mask can seem threatening rather than caring and trustworthy.
Conquering Faults With Creativity
A better Ebola suit design could help address all of these concerns. Tailors, designers, artists, and other professionals are working together to do so. In one approach, LA Occidental College professor and artist Mary Beth Heffernan had the presence of mind to create photo stickers of healthcare workers and place them on the front of the wearer’s suit.
The stickers allow patients to associate healthcare providers with friendly human face rather than just an intimidating mask. Heffernan has been working with clinic professionals to make the photo sticker kits available at treatment sites.
When Technology Meets Needs
A greater challenge is the structure of the suit itself. To improve its wearability and protectiveness, designers of all types have started working with Tyvek and restructuring the suit’s vents, minimizing its components, and the way it’s put on, fastened and removed to make contagion exposure less likely and extend the wear time.
Using a facial shield instead of a mask and goggles makes the wearer more comfortable, visible, and less exposed. Special removal features could also help workers maneuver out of a suit in a single motion rather than having to undress from it with both hands.
Designers have brought a lot of improvements to the table, but there is still a long way to go in matching technology to need, and the key may be better design.
Do you have ideas for improvement in anti-contamination suits and other equipment that could help us more safely respond to health emergencies?
Beyond Coronavirus Vaccine – mRNA Cancer Treatment
The Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccines represent the first two vaccines based on mRNA technology approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Although people may perceive mRNA technology as new, medical researchers have been exploring it as the next step in vaccine and cancer treatment development since the 1990s. In addition to the potential of mRNA to produce vaccines for vexing diseases, like Ebola or HIV, researchers also believe in its potential for cancer treatments. In the same way that mRNA can teach the human body to attack a virus, it could train the immune system to attack cancer tumor cells.
How Does An mRNA Vaccine Work?
DNA within cells builds messengers, known as mRNA, that trigger the production of proteins necessary for a cell’s function. An mRNA vaccine creates the message that the body should create a protein specific to the targeted pathogen. In the case of coronavirus, an mRNA vaccine informs the immune system about a protein that the virus needs. This enables an immune response that attacks the protein and therefore eliminates the virus’s ability to function within the body.
Potential Cancer Therapies
BioNTech and Moderna have cancer research programs as well. In July 2020, BioNTech entered a collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to study a melanoma treatment based on the experimental BNT111 FixVac mRNA vaccine. BNT111 is designed to trigger anti-tumor responses using four antigens.
As for Moderna, researchers at that pharmaceutical company want to create custom cancer vaccines. The research relies on sequencing mutations found in an individual’s cancer cells. A custom mRNA vaccine would then be tailored to those mutations and theoretically result in the patient’s immune system attacking the cancer.
Will the development of revolutionary cancer treatments be the silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic?
Every cell in the body uses mRNA to provide real-time instructions to make the proteins necessary to drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease.
Given its essential role, we believe mRNA could be used to create a new category of medicines with significant potential to improve the lives of patients.
We are pioneering a new class of medicines made of messenger RNA, or mRNA. The potential implications of using mRNA as a drug are significant and far-reaching and could meaningfully improve how medicines are discovered, developed and manufactured.
Since our founding in 2010, we have worked to build the industry’s leading mRNA technology platform, the infrastructure to accelerate drug discovery and early development, a rapidly expanding pipeline, and a world-class team. Our pipeline includes development candidates for mRNA-based vaccines and therapies spanning several therapeutic areas, and we have multiple clinical trials underway with other development candidates progressing toward the clinic. In addition, we have numerous discovery programs advancing toward development.
Starting with Charles Pfizer inventing an almond-flavored antiparasite medicine in 1849, our people have always been innovators & trailblazers, committed to finding the next cure.
Pfizer is dedicated to improving your health and wellness by developing medicines and providing health tips and resources to help you manage a healthy lifestyle. Explore our health and wellness resources
At Pfizer our biotechnology is our foundation. With 25,000 clinical researchers testing every day, pharmaceutical development and innovation are our focus.
Our purpose is grounded in our commitment to fund programs that provide public benefit, advance medical care and improve patient outcomes. Our belief is that all people deserve to live healthy lives. This drives our desire to provide access to medicines that are safe, effective, and affordable.
BioNTech was founded in 2008 on the understanding that every cancer patient’s tumor is unique and therefore each patient’s treatment should be individualized. To translate this idea into reality, we have combined ground-breaking research with cutting-edge technologies to develop pioneering therapeutics for cancer and beyond.
As we prove the value of our approach in the clinic, we will continue to build the partnerships, manufacturing and team required to bring individualized treatments to patients worldwide. From our roots in Mainz, Germany, we are driven to become the leading global biotechnology company for individualized cancer medicine.
ABOUT The Food And Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is the oldest comprehensive consumer protection agency in the U. S. federal government. Since 1848 the federal government has used chemical analysis to monitor the safety of agricultural products — a responsibility inherited by the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and later by the FDA.
Although it was not known by its present name until 1930, FDA’s modern regulatory functions began with the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, a law a quarter-century in the making, that prohibited interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. Harvey Washington Wiley, Chief Chemist of the USDA Bureau of Chemistry, had been the driving force behind this law and headed its enforcement in the early years, providing basic elements of protection that consumers had never known before that time.
Since then, the FDA has changed along with social, economic, political and legal changes in the United States. Examining the history of these changes illuminates the evolving role that FDA has played in promoting public health and offers lessons to consider as we evaluate current regulatory challenges.
3D Printing Will Bring Big Medical Advances
The word revolutionary is not too strong for describing how 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, will advance health care. The technology is expected to enable the printing of organs and tissues based on recipients’ cells and increase customization of medical tools and devices.
3D Printed Organs
Organ transplant recipients must control tissue rejection with lifelong medication regimens. Additionally, the acquisition of suitable organs requires long waits. Additive manufacturing using materials generated from a recipient’s cells solves these problems. The base cell material creates a genetic match that eliminates tissue rejection. The ability to make an organ also removes waiting for a suitable donor.
An experiment at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has proven the viability of organ printing. A printer made the tissue for a new bladder from a patient’s blood cells. The medical scientists have also replicated heart valves and livers.
People in need of prosthetics often have long wait times for custom-fitted pieces. With 3D printing, prosthetics manufacturing can become widely distributed, which speeds their availability at the point of care. Costs could be reduced as well.
Customized Surgical Assistive Devices
From dental drill guides to inhalers, 3D printing allows for clinicians to make custom devices quickly. Sometimes only a single day is needed to fabricate a customized piece because 3D printing cuts prototype development time by 80 to 90 percent.
Medical Supply Production
Demand for long cotton swabs for collecting samples for coronavirus tests has exploded due to the pandemic. The medical startup company OPT Industries had met demand with 3D printed swabs that also collect and release fluids better than their cotton counterparts. The company’s 3D printers produce swabs that are actually woven lattices of extremely thin fibers. With swab production now at 80,000 swabs a day, the company has helped to ease swab supply shortages. Automated swab printing also allows the company to produce the swabs at a competitive price.
In what ways do you think 3D printing could improve patient care and outcomes?
ABOUT Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) is recognized as an international leader in translating scientific discovery into clinical therapies. Physicians and scientists at WFIRM were the first in the world to engineer laboratory-grown organs that were successfully implanted into humans. Today, this interdisciplinary team that numbers about 400 is working to engineer more than 40 different replacement tissues and organs, and to develop healing cell therapies – all with the goal to cure, rather than merely treat, disease.
A number of the basic principles of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine were first developed at the institute. WFIRM researchers have successfully engineered replacement tissues and organs in all four categories – flat structures, tubular tissues, hollow organs and solid organs – and 15 different applications of cell/tissue therapy technologies, such as skin, urethras, cartilage, bladders, muscle, kidney, and vaginal organs, have been successfully used in human patients.
The institute, which is part of Wake Forest School of Medicine, is located in the Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem, NC.
ABOUT OPT Industries
Spun off from the MIT Media Lab, OPT Industries was founded with the goal of pushing the design and production limitations of digital manufacturing. Drawing inspiration from nature and mass manufacturing, we provide novel materials for both aesthetic use and engineered applications.
We build automated manufacturing systems that rapidly assemble mechanical metamaterials at production scale. Our manufacturing technology provides bespoke material solutions to various industries using the proprietary polymers that we have developed in-house. Each formulation is thoroughly tuned, validated and tested for its intended product application. Our generative software platform allows us to work with our clients to quickly optimize, customize, and manufacture a large range of product iterations that are instantly ready for market.
Explosive Growth Expected For AI-Enabled Medical Imaging Diagnostics
Artificial intelligence has proven its usefulness for accurately interpreting medical scans. The systems can analyze medical images in minute detail, draw upon vast quantities of diagnostic data, and supplement the work of human pathologists. Because these capabilities will revolutionize diagnostics, IDTechEX predicts that the global market for AI medical imaging diagnostics will expand by 10,000 percent by 2040.
Breast Cancer Diagnostics
Clinicians rely on medical imaging to detect and treat breast cancer. An AI developed by Google called LYNA has shown 99 percent accuracy in finding metastatic breast cancer tumors. Another breakthrough has emerged from researchers in Berlin, Germany, and Oslo, Norway. Their tissue-section analysis system uses AI to examine images pixel by pixel. To help pathologists check the images, the AI highlights the exact areas within the image used to reach a diagnosis.
Pathology Software Systems
The software company Proscia located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has developed an imaging workflow for pathologists. The software processes digital medical images and applies AI to detect patterns that a pathologist should review.
Although the software from Proscia remains experimental, medical AI from Ibex Medical Analytics is already in use in hospitals and laboratories around the world. Ibex’s AI replicates the methods used by pathologists to study medical images. The results are fast and highly accurate cancer diagnoses that provide pathologists with rapid second opinions. The Ibex AI also can catch issues that pathologists miss.
In general, pathology is often a collaborative exercise. Traditionally, pathologists have consulted with each other when images appear ambiguous. An AI system makes an expert analysis readily available.
How do you imagine AI can improve medical diagnostics?
Our globally cited analysts are mostly PhD-educated subject matter experts. Crucially, our analyst team also includes successful experienced business leaders. We conduct primary research through interviews, site visits and events across the World, getting the insight first. New technologies tend to be hyped. We focus on assessing the needs of end-users to identify problems where new technologies can add value.
Based on extensive research, we provide a clear view of the real situation in complex subject matters, regardless of the popular conception. IDTechEx hosts the World’s largest events on some of the topics we cover, in addition to daily web journals. This has helped to create a significant contact base in the topics we cover, allowing us to connect you with customers.
For 150 years, cancer diagnosis has been limited to the subjective interpretation of what the human eye could see under a microscope. To change the way we diagnose and research cancer, we need new tools — computational applications that leverage AI and machine learning — to show us the information hidden in every tissue sample.
That’s why we started Proscia. Our mission is to perfect cancer diagnosis with intelligent software that changes the way the world practices pathology. We’re building tools for the mind that are redefining pathology and giving pathologists better ways to fight cancer today.
ABOUT Ibex Medical Analytics
Ibex Medical Analytics is the pioneer in AI-powered cancer diagnostics in pathology. We are a multidisciplinary team of entrepreneurs, data scientists, software engineers and medical experts, working together to realize our vision: Transforming cancer diagnostics with AI and improving patient care.
Pathologists are challenged to provide accurate and timely analysis as the number of tests increases every year. Ibex uses artificial intelligence (AI) to develop clinical-grade solutions that help detect cancer as accurately as a human pathologist.
Our Galen Platform uses algorithms to analyze images, detect and grade cancer in biopsies and point to other findings with high clinical importance, helping pathologists reduce diagnostic error rates. and enable a more efficient workflow.