Advances in Diagnostics, Nutrition and Infant Care

By: Katy Mena-Berkley
Monday, March 2, 2015

These devices in the works may enhance disease detection, dietary tracking and infant incubation.

Microfluidic Device

Urine contains information that may indicate conditions such as kidney disease and prostate cancer, and chemists at Brigham Young University have developed a microfluidic device to detect those diseases in minutes through the use of a tiny tube lined with DNA.

The sequences inside the tube attach to disease markers, slowing the flow of urine through the tube if disease is present. In contrast, urine from someone who does not have the condition flows uninterrupted. In addition to rapid results, the device offers a pain-free diagnostic option and may provide greater accuracy than blood screenings, according to BYU researchers.

A study appeared in the journal Analytical Methods. The device, which has been tested with synthetic urine, is slated for human trials.

Automatic Ingestion Monitor

Automatic Ingestion Monitor 250
Image courtesy of the University of Alabama

Those who struggle to maintain a healthy weight may soon have a new tool at their disposal. The Automatic Ingestion Monitor, developed by researchers at the University of Alabama, Georgia State University and the University of Colorado, is engineered to track the dietary habits of patients and evaluate the mass and energy content of food they ingest.

Utilizing Bluetooth wireless technology, the monitor, which fits over the ear, captures dietary data using a tiny camera and a sensor. The camera photographs food before it is ingested, while the sensor detects jaw motion and gathers information about how patients consume food. Jaw movement unrelated to eating or drinking is filtered out.

Researchers believe the data could prove more reliable than self-reported food intake information.

Inflatable Incubator

Virtually as portable as a pool toy, the MOM inflatable incubator represents a low-cost option for medical professionals caring for premature babies in remote areas. The device’s flat components can be packed and shipped compactly, then rapidly assembled. The transparent panels that form MOM’s walls are manually inflated, and the structure is heated by a ceramic element. Temperature and humidity are kept stable with an Arduino computer, and a phototherapy lamp installed in MOM is useful for treating babies with jaundice.

MOM-Incubator 750
Image courtesy of Dyson

“In a refugee camp, where it may be necessary to separate a baby from her mother, this provides a fantastically elegant and cheap solution,” pediatrician Martin Ward Platt, MD, told BBC News.

Designed by James Roberts, a graduate of Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, MOM earned the James Dyson Award for up-and-coming engineers. Roberts hopes it will be on the market by 2017. The estimated cost: about $400, compared with tens of thousands of dollars for conventional incubators.