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Seriously ill wait more than hour for ambulance

Thousands of emergency calls are taking ambulance crews more than an hour to reach, a BBC investigation shows.

The delays – affecting one in 16 calls in England for conditions such as strokes, heart attacks and fits – are putting lives at risk, experts say.

It amounts to over 4,000 “unacceptably” long waits a week for the second-highest category 999 calls. Wales also reported significant problems.

NHS bosses blamed rising demand and delays handing over patients at A&E.

Many ambulance services have increased staffing – only to find the extra resource largely being swallowed up by the rise in delays faced by crews queuing outside hospitals.

This has meant they have had to prioritise the most serious immediately life-threatening cases, such as cardiac arrests.

But these represent just a small proportion of the high-priority 999 calls.

Some of the longest waits exceeded five hours – crews are meant to arrive within 18 minutes on average.

‘My partner died while waiting’

Derrin Cozart, 55, was at home in Northumberland on his own last year when he collapsed. He came to and rang 999.

That was the last time anyone spoke to him.

It was over an hour before an ambulance crew arrived. By the time they did, he was dead.

He had suffered a gastrointestinal haemorrhage, which causes internal bleeding.

Thirty minutes after his call the ambulance service had rung back, but could not get hold of him.

It took another 48 minutes for paramedics to reach him – two crews had to be diverted while they were on their way.

His partner, Mark Mitchell, was out of the country on business at the time.

“It was devastating. I’ve been left wondering if the ambulance had got there more quickly he may have survived.

“We just don’t know – and that’s heartbreaking.”

The North East Ambulance Service said a full investigation was being carried out into the case.

Patients ‘let down badly’

The BBC investigation, which used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data, has also uncovered other worrying cases, including a 70-year-old man who waited more than two hours after suffering a heart attack – he was taken to hospital and then faced even more delays before he could be admitted on to a ward

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said patients were being “let down badly at their moment of greatest need” and getting a quick response could be “a matter of life or death”.

She said the delays were “undoubtedly” related to the sustained underfunding of the NHS.

Mark MacDonald, of the Stroke Association, described the findings as “alarming”, saying a quick assessment and transfer to hospital for brain scans was vital if a patient was going to make a good recovery.

“When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down. And so does a part of you. Around two million neurons are lost every minute that a stroke is untreated.”

How many long waits are there?

Chart showing regional ambulance performance

The BBC asked for long waits for the two highest priority groups of 999 calls – the immediately life-threatening category ones and the emergency category two cases – from the start of 2018 when a new system of measuring response times came in.

Two of England’s 10 ambulance services – the West Midlands and East of England – refused to provide the information.

Long waits for immediately life-threatening cases were unusual – just one in 270 cases took longer than 30 minutes to reach. That works out at less than 40 a week.

But the records for category two call logs showed long waits for these emergencies were much more common.

The data showed there were 385,000 waits of over an hour from January 2018 to September 2019 out of just over six million incidents responded to.

That works out at more than 4,000 a week on average – or one in 16 calls.

East Midlands Ambulance Service had the greatest number of long delays – one in eight calls took over an hour.

Director of operations Ben Holdaway said crews were often facing long waits at A&E to hand over patients which means they “haven’t been able to get back on the road quickly”.

“Every part of the system wants to tackle these issues, but it’s clear we need more staff and beds and well-functioning social care.”

In Wales there were more than 1,000 cases a week on average – nearly a quarter of callouts – although their second-tier emergency calls category is a little broader than England’s and includes less urgent cases like diabetes complications which could account for some of the long waits.

Lee Brooks, from the Welsh Ambulance Service, accepted that some patients were waiting too long, describing it as as “frustrating for staff as it is for patients”.

Ministers are in the process of setting up a taskforce to tackle the delays.

Comparable data was not available in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

NHS national ambulance adviser Anthony Marsh said: “It is not easy to reach everyone as quickly as we would all like. All our staff are working flat out.”

The Department of Health and Social Care in England said the government was increasing funding for the health service and had set aside a dedicated pot to invest in ambulance services.

It also said it was investing in the workforce – from September student paramedics will be entitled to a £5,000-a-year grant to support them during their studies.

Data analysis by Felix Stephenson and Christine Jeavans



Nikon to buy optical imaging player Optos for $400M in med tech expansion bid

Nikon will acquire the Optos Group for £259.3 million ($400 million) as part of its long-term plan to expand into the medical sector. Last June, the long-suffering camera giant restructured and unveiled a plan to establish itself again as a growth company–part of that is to leverage its optical technologies to expand into the medical industry.


The Tokyo-based conglomerate hopes the Optos acquisition will serve as a platform for its expansion into medical technology. It plans to expand into internal diagnostics, ophthalmology treatment and regenerative medicine such as retina regeneration. Nikon also anticipates that it can use the deal as the basis for technology partnerships. It sees Optos’ ultrawidefield technologies with optical coherence tomography imaging technology as having the potential be combined with other tech to create precise, minimally invasive medical devices.


Nikon President Kazuo Ushida


“I am confident that an Optos/Nikon combination would create a world class ‘retina’ player and would significantly benefit our respective stakeholders. Together, we will pursue various collaboration opportunities and further expand the medical business in the future,” Kazuo Ushida, President of Nikon, said in a statement.

Optos markets the Optomap technology, which is used by ophthalmologists to capture a detailed image of the retina that is used to diagnose disease. It also has next-gen ultrawidefield diagnostic products that are smaller and more portable including the Daytona and the California.


In the year ending Sept. 30, Scotland-based Optos had about $170.6 million in revenues with an operating profit of about $16.3 million. The deal values Optos at 30.5% above its prior market close on Feb. 26. An Optos shareholder Aberforth Partners, which holds about 13.1% of the company, has indicated it’s in favor of the deal. The company first listed publicly in 2006.


Nikon had revenues of ¥981 billion ($9.5 billion) for the year ended March 31, with an operating income of ¥63 billion ($612 million) for that period. It is divided into the following segments: Imaging Products Business, a Precision Equipment Business, an Instruments Business and Other Businesses, including medical, encoders, ophthalmic lenses, customized products and glass businesses.


Nikon, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, has a market capitalization of ¥617 billion ($5.2 billion).


Optimistic Optos shareholders may be looking for a white knight competitor to enter the deal; they drove Optos’ up above the offer price of 340 pence to 341.17 pence on the London Stock Exchange in response to the deal news.






Telescopic Contact Lens Zooms In With A Wink

Telescopic contact lens

The prototype device. Pic: Eric Tremblay and Joe Ford. Courtesy of EPFL.

A telescopic contact lens that can zoom in and out with the wink of an eye has been unveiled by researchers.

The latest prototype, which offers hope to some of the 285 million people estimated to be visually impaired worldwide, was revealed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in California.

The 1.55mm thick lens contains an extremely thin, reflective telescope.

Small mirrors inside bounce light around, expanding the perceived size of objects and magnifying the view, similar to looking through low-magnification binoculars.

Telescopic contact lens

The 1.55mm-thick lens. Pic: Eric Tremblay and Joe Ford. Courtesy of EPFL.

Optics specialist Eric Tremblay from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland also debuted complementary smart glasses that recognise winks – but ignore blinks – allowing the wearer of the contact lenses to switch between normal and magnified vision.

The user winks with their right eye for magnification and the left for normal vision.

First released in 2013 and refined since then, the hi-tech optical device magnifies objects 2.8 times.

Mr Tremblay said: “We think these lenses hold a lot of promise for low vision and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).”

The sight disorder is the leading cause of blindness among older people in the West.

Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the lenses were meant to serve as a form of bionic vision for soldiers.

Mr Tremblay stressed the device was still at the research stage, but was hopeful it could eventually become a “real option” for people with AMD.

He said: “It’s very important and hard to strike a balance between function and the social costs of wearing any kind of bulky visual device.

“There is a strong need for something more integrated, and a contact lens is an attractive direction.”

The telescopic contacts are currently made using a rigid “scleral” lens, unlike the soft contacts most people wear.

And while larger, Mr Tremblay said they were safe and comfortable.

The lenses are made from several precision-cut pieces of plastic, aluminium mirrors and polarising thin films, along with biologically safe glues.

Because the eye needs a steady supply of oxygen, the scientists have worked to make the device more breathable, using tiny air channels roughly 0.1mm wide within the lens.

The research team, which includes the University of California, San Diego, as well as experts at Paragon Vision Sciences, Innovega, Pacific Sciences and Engineering, and Rockwell Collins, said the device represented a “huge leap” forward.

There are glasses already on the market for people with AMD that have mounted telescopes, but tend to be bulky and difficult to use.

They also do not track eye movement, so the wearer has to tilt their head and position their eyes in a certain way to use them.


Scanadu: The ‘Star Trek’ Medical Tricorder Becomes a Reality


Star Trek type tricorder is now a reality with Scanadu

In 2013, a man bilked investors into funding a medical device that worked like the Star Trek tricorder. He even named it after the grumpy doctor who used in on the iconic show — The “McCoy Home Health Tablet.”The man’s “investment opportunity” was a scam, and according to the National Post, he was convicted for bilking people out of their money. However, just a little over a year later, a new tricorder like device, called the Scanadu Scout, has become a reality. And it works.

The device, pictured below, works by placing it on a patient’s forehead. In a matter of seconds, a sensor measures vitals such as heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. It even provides a complete ECG reading.

Scanadu medical scanner

Scanadu medical scanner.




The device came about after a successful crowdfunding campaign, and begins shipping to backers at the end of July, 2015.

The Scanadu is the invention of Walter De Brouwer, a Belgian entrepreneur, who came up with the idea after his son suffered brain damage from a fall.

De Brouwer told CNN that he got his inspiration from Star Trek, which he said was “more than just a movie, it was a business plan.”

The tricorder in Star Trek was only used by a doctor, but De Brouwer says that the Scanadu can be used by anyone.


Philips Completes Acquisition of Volcano

Acquisition expands Philips’ global leadership position in image-guided therapy market

Amsterdam, the Netherlands and San Diego, CA, US – Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG; AEX: PHIA) today announced that it has completed the acquisition of Volcano Corporation (NASDAQ: VOLC). Volcano’s financial results will be consolidated as part of Philips’ image-guided therapy business group as of February 17, 2015. Volcano generated sales of approximately USD 400 million in 2014 and employs approximately 1,800 employees. Philips’ long-standing partnership with Volcano, the retention of key management members and in-depth preparations will facilitate the integration into Philips’ image-guided therapy business group.“The completion of the Volcano acquisition is an important milestone in our strategy to become the leading systems integrator in the fast growing image-guided minimally invasive surgery market and accelerate our growth in that market,” said Frans van Houten, Chief Executive Officer of Royal Philips. ”The combination of Volcano’s broad portfolio of imaging and measurement catheters and Philips’ leading interventional imaging solutions allow us to provide our customers with an integrated solution to improve procedural outcomes at a decisive stage in the health continuum. ”

In image-guided treatments of the heart and blood vessels, there is increased clinical evidence which demonstrates that the use of imaging and measurement catheters in conjunction with interventional X-ray imaging helps improve procedural outcomes. Such catheters are single-use disposables, and Volcano is the only company in the industry with leading positions in both IVUS (intravascular ultrasound) catheters that are capable of producing ultrasound images of the interior of blood vessels and FFR (fractional flow reserve) catheters that are used to assess  the blood flow. The acquisition complements Philips’ existing portfolio of interventional X-ray and ultrasound imaging equipment, navigation systems, software and services, and creates new sources of recurring revenue streams.

The acquisition of Volcano occurred through a merger under Section 251(h) of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware following the successful completion of Philip’s previously announced tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of common stock of Volcano for USD 18.00 per share in cash, without interest, less any applicable withholding of taxes. The tender offer expired at 9:00 a.m., Eastern Time, on February 17, 2015. As of the expiration of the tender offer, approximately 49,220,771 shares (including 2,967,581 shares tendered pursuant to guaranteed delivery procedures) were validly tendered and not properly withdrawn in the tender offer, which represented 94.8% of the outstanding Volcano shares, according to the depositary for the tender offer. All conditions to the tender offer having been satisfied, Philips accepted for payment all shares that were validly tendered and not properly withdrawn. Philips is financing the acquisition through a combination of cash on hand and the issuance of debt.

As a result of the merger, all remaining Volcano shares were converted into the right to receive USD 18.00 per share in cash, without interest, less any applicable withholding of taxes, the same price that was paid in the tender offer.

Volcano has requested that NASDAQ files a Form 25 with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission causing the delisting of Volcano’s common stock from NASDAQ.  Volcano’s common stock will cease trading prior to the opening of trading on February 18, 2015.


The NHS’s Chaotic IT Systems Show no Sign of Recovery


When you walk into my GP’s surgery, the first thing you see is a screen on the receptionist’s counter. Displayed on it are the words (all in capitals) “TOUCH THE SCREEN TO ARRIVE FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT”. Being pedantic, the first time I saw it I pointed out to the receptionist that I had arrived for my appointment. She grimaced. I then asked if the medical implications of asking every patient to use the same touchscreen during, say, a flu epidemic had been considered. Another grimace. It was, she explained, “a new system”.

This system was provided by Epic Systems, a US corporation based in Wisconsin, which may explain why its software designers seem unfamiliar with the verb “to arrive”. It’s one of eight major vendors of healthcare information systems, all of which are based in the US, and it got its foot in the NHS door quite a long time ago. My doctor’s surgery has been using it for a while. At the beginning, the system’s user-interface was abysmal and dysfunctional. Now, several years on, it’s merely ugly. But at least it works.

On 26 October, our local hospital, Addenbrooke’s, which is run by Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (CUHFT), made an excited announcement on its website. “A new patient record system to improve patient care at Cambridge University Hospitals has been switched on. eHospital went live across the Trust this morning at 02:00. The new system will improve the quality of care for patients by ensuring that doctors, nurses and other clinical staff can access relevant patient information wherever they are, at the click of a button and on bespoke software that has been designed by and for clinicians.”

The hospital’s chief information officer declared that he and his colleagues were “delighted that this revolutionary new system has now gone live. It is the biggest single investment the Trust has ever made in the quality of patient care, and will make a real difference for everyone who comes into the Trust… Instead of having to wait for paper records to be delivered to the ward, nurses are able to bring up patient notes on their handheld devices. Patients will get their medication quicker, nurses can spend more time with their patients and people who are treated here will get home sooner.”

Now spool forward to 2 November, when I received an email from a friend who had broken her foot and gone to Addenbrooke’s.

“I had the bad luck to arrive the day after the hospital switched on to its ‘revolutionary new patient record system’, eHospital,” she wrote. “My son and I got to A&E at about 9pm to find posters up everywhere boasting about this, the usual endless queue of waiting patients and most of the staff clustered around computers, unable to do anything until they had logged on, and apparently finding constant glitches.

“Both patients and staff were really struggling,” she went on. “It’s not just teething troubles. The staff I’ve spoken to have huge doubts about the system itself – they say there was some consultation with them, but their responses were very selectively received. I doubt if they consulted patients. From the patients’ point of view,” she wrote, “it is quite dehumanising. Staff now approach [while] gazing at a mobile device and trying to find you on it; then they check you in with a wrist barcode. There is no time for conversation or even often for eye contact. Some of this might improve as they get more confident with the system but they are deeply unhappy with the change in culture and they say all the real nurses will leave.”

My friend’s observations cannot be dismissed as the biased grumblings of a pissed-off patient. They are confirmed in an official report to the local health committee by Jessica Bawden, director of corporate affairs, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group. “On the evening of Saturday 1 November,” Bawden reported, “the Epic system became unstable. The decision to switch to a read-only version of the software was taken at approximately 11.15pm. Following expert technical advice and action from suppliers, the system was restored at 2.27am. Business continuity plans were deployed and a ‘major incident’ across the system was declared. All agencies came together during the night to support CUHFT; for example, all ambulances were rerouted to different hospitals for a five-hour time period.”

Just for the avoidance of doubt, this is not an anti-NHS rant. Addenbrooke’s is a pretty good hospital. And the NHS badly needs a paperless health-records system. This is just the latest instalment in a long-running saga in which British public institutions display their inability to introduce complex IT systems without causing chaos and distress.

We’ve been screwing up like this for two decades. Isn’t it time we tried learning from our mistakes?


Obese Could Lose Benefits if they Refuse Treatment – PM

Overweight man eating fast food

People who cannot work because they are obese or have alcohol or drug problems could have their sickness benefits cut if they refuse treatment, the PM says.

David Cameron has launched a review of the current system, which he says fails to encourage people with long-term, treatable issues to get medical help.

Some 100,000 people with such conditions claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the government says.

Labour said the policy would do nothing to help people to get off benefits.

Campaigners said it was “naive” to think overweight people did not want to change their lives.

There is currently no requirement for people with alcohol, drug or weight-related health problems to undertake treatment.

‘A life of work’

Mr Cameron has asked Prof Dame Carol Black, an adviser to the Department of Health, to look at whether it would be appropriate to withhold benefits from those who are unwilling to accept help.

Announcing the proposal, he said: “Some [people] have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment.

“In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed – but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice.

“It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.”



Bottles of alcohol

By political correspondent Alex Forsyth

David Cameron sees the wide-ranging welfare reforms introduced in this Parliament as part of a “moral mission”.

He has said they give new hope to people who have been written off by helping them back to work.

He also knows taxpayers who fund the welfare state like policies which ensure benefits only go to those who need them.

So despite criticism of what some see as an increasingly punitive benefits regime, the Conservatives are floating a new suggestion – possible sanctions for those claimants who refuse help to overcome treatable conditions.

On the same day, during a speech in Wales, Labour’s leader will pledge to continue his attack on tax avoidance.

So David Cameron runs the risk of being seen as someone wanting to crack down on some of society’s most vulnerable, while Ed Miliband targets the wealthiest.

The truth is both party leaders are trying to persuade “hard-working families” that they’re on their side.


Similar proposals have been considered by the government before.

In 2010 and 2012 the Conservatives considered plans to remove or cut benefits for drug and alcohol addicts who refused treatment.

At the time the plans were met with concern by charities, who said there was no evidence benefit sanctions would help addicts engage with treatment.

Disabilities Minister Mark Harper said people who were overweight or had alcohol or drug problems needed treatment to get back to work

Dame Carol welcomed Saturday’s announcement, saying: “These people, in addition to their long-term conditions and lifestyle issues, suffer the great disadvantage of not being engaged in the world of work, such an important feature of society.”

And Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper told the BBC the right interventions could be “very successful”.

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Case study

Terry Hogan, 45, from Ashton-under-Lyne, has been on incapacity benefit – before it became ESA – since 1992 and is also on a weight-management course.

He suffers from fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, type-2 diabetes, depression, lymphoedema, cellulitis, and Klinefelter’s Syndrome.

He said his illnesses had caused him to become more sedentary, which in turn led to him putting on weight.

“When I was well enough I did voluntary work,” he told the BBC.

“In 2012 I became incapacitated to the point where everything I do leaves me tired and in pain.

“I don’t think this review is helpful. If you’re overweight on sickness benefits, forcing someone to lose weight and cutting benefits won’t help the individual. There may be underlying causes to weight gain.

“I still walk on crutches, am in a lot of pain all of the time, and take a lot of painkillers. I do want to lose weight but it’s not that simple.”

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Susannah Gilbert, from obesity support group Big Matters, said the policy “wouldn’t be feasible”.

She said: “I think it’s naive to think that people don’t want to change their life. Many of them have tried every diet under the sun and they still have a weight problem, so to think they don’t want to have help isn’t true.”

Not helping

Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Kate Green MP, said the announcement did “nothing to help people off benefits and into work”, adding: “David Cameron’s government has stripped back funding for drug support programmes and their Work Programme has helped just 7% of people back to work, so it is clear the Tory plan isn’t working.”

The UK Independence Party also said it was “another example of the way that this government bullies those it has decided are beyond the pale”.

Deputy chairman Suzanne Evans said: “The government obviously doesn’t care about those with weight or addiction problems, it is just ideologically driven by its contempt for those on benefits and its need to get the benefits bill down at all costs.”

ESA was introduced in 2008 to replace incapacity benefit and income support, paid because of an illness or disability.

It requires claimants to undertake a work capability assessment to see how much their illness or disability affects their ability to work.

Once a claim is accepted, those receiving ESA get up to £108.15 a week.

Some 60% of the 2.5 million people claiming ESA have been doing so for more than five years, government figures show.



New Glasses Transform The Way Colorblind People See The World

This special eyewear is giving many a new outlook.

EnChroma, a company in Berkeley, California, has created colorblindness correcting glasses, which allow those who are colorblind to see hues they may have never experienced before. While the sunglasses, which are meant for outdoor use in daylight, were first released two years ago, the company’s new version is made from polycarbonate — a material that’s kid-friendly and usable in sports.

Left: Venice seen by someone with colorblindness. Right: Venice seen by a colorblind person while wearing the EnChroma glasses

It’s an improvement that could help a significant number of people.

An estimated 32 million Americans experience some degree of colorblindness, according to the Wall Street Journal. The eyewear, which range from $325 to $450 and address red-green colorblindness — the most common form — have the potential to help four in five people with the condition by making everyday, outdoor tasks easier.

“Color-coded tasks, like driving, enjoying nature, playing sports, cooking and eating, are all improved,” Donald McPherson, co-founder of EnChroma told The Huffington Post in an email.

Left: A landscape seen by someone with colorblindness. Right: The same landscape seen by a colorblind person while wearing the EnChroma glasses

The product was originally intended to be laser safety eyewear for surgeons, but one of McPherson’s friends who was colorblind borrowed the prototype and saw a range of colors for the first time. The incident influenced McPherson to shift focus and produce a product targeting people with the condition.

The idea has since come a long way, and this latest version, which is available to both prescription and non-prescription wearers, isn’t where the advancements end for the company. On top of working to make the glasses more accessible for colorblind people, EnChroma is also hoping to target their work on children — the age group where they say they can make huge inroads.

“The young mind in neurally plastic,” McPherson told HuffPost. “Studies have shown that color deficiency leads to a loss of information … We feel that by offering these glasses to kids we will see remarkable improvements in learning.”




How 3-D Printing Will Enable Personalised Drug Delivery

In the future, 3-D printed drug delivery devices will allow for patient-specific formulation and tailored release characteristics. However, there are still many obstacles to overcome.

It is beginning to be recognised that disease is personal and genotypical and as such, future advances in treatment will rely on multimodal approaches, tailored specifically to the patient. This requires a longitudinal methodology encompassing diagnosis, therapy and monitoring.

3D printing has a role to play in all of these aspects, but most explicitly in the development of platforms for personalised, bespoke drug delivery. Current forms of treatment are in general, bolus, with a systemic flooding of the system (e.g., ingesting of a tablet). 3D printed drug delivery systems, however, present the opportunity for tailored formulation, whereby the release strategy can be embodied at the design state, with the geometry and material functionality specifically tailored to achieve the desired release characteristics. This is a tremendously attractive proposition – imagine being able to present to your attending physician, be assessed, and have a treatment and its delivery platform designed and manufactured specifically for you.

The route to this goal, however, is complex and not without challenge. Diagnostic capability needs to be matched to manufacturing. In order to design such specific platforms, an intimate understanding of the material’s structural, degradation and dissolution mechanics and chemistry is required, and the ability to manufacture, with precision and repeatability is paramount. Advanced materials, both design and manufacture, are a key challenge for personalised 3D printing. The current understanding of how one can fine tune the functionalization of molecule is far from complete – one is not able usually to “dial up” the molecule or material that you need for a specific purpose. Manufacture of such bespoke chemistries, on demand, is not possible with current techniques.

Professor Ricky Wildman, University of Nottingham 

Progress on this is being made at the University of Nottingham. A collaboration between the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Pharmacy is developing a new range of biocompatible, ink jettable biomaterials, primarily for the purpose of drug delivery. These efforts take advantage of the state of the art facilities at the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing and in the Laboratory of Biophysics and Surface Analysis. Within this laboratory there is a production line of materials developing, printing development, novel process assessment and object printing. Here we imagine the possibility of combining multifunctional materials for biomaterials applications – the combining of circuitry with structural material for sensors, combining drug and support for drug delivery and API and excipient for dosage applications. The ability to combine materials on the fly, gives the possibility not only of multimaterial, multifunctional objects, but the grading and tuning of material, such as the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), such that we can select and produce personalised delivery rates for multidrug/modal systems.

There are a number of challenges with this approach. The materials that are to be used need to be liquid, but curable and retain their biorelevant function. Currently, there is a limited palette of available materials for this purpose. Printing of such materials is in its early days and reliable, precise deposition is only beginning to be understood. Further, 3D printing often requires the use of support structures that must be eliminated post printing. One would ideally like to remove the need for supports, but if necessary, supports will need to be removable via a nontoxic process, leave no residue that would affect the functional structure and equally importantly, not add significantly to the cost of the product.

These challenges are being overcome though, through the combination of fundamental understanding and industrial collaboration. For example, at Nottingham, the printing of solid dosage forms and the printing of multifunctional 3D objects demonstrated, pointing to 3D printing in the near future, creating the opportunity for patient specific treatment, within the environment of the clinical lab. In combination with the practical issues of printing, a fundamental understanding of polymer degradation and characterisation of new materials, both prior and post printing is needed to obtain control over the process. Underpinning this is a need for new design methods that can automatically seek out the geometries required, and the distributions of material to affect the drug release rate that is required.

In future, the mechanism of treatment will be inverted, with clinician feeding the diagnosis and treatment requirements to a manufacturing suite, who will dial up the materials required and the structure needed to deliver the perfect, treatment profile, ready to printed locally and near to point of care. Through the combined efforts of science, industry and regulatory authorities we will see this realised in our lifetime.



Google is Making Human Skin to Test Cancer-Detecting Device

Google is developing a wearable medical device consisting of a magnet that would collect ingested nanoparticles whose job it is to attach to cancerous cells and take them to the magnet. The nanoparticles convey data to the magnet by “lighting up” cancer cells, Andrew Conrad, the head of Google’s life sciences unit, said. The development-stage device, worn around the wrist, is being tested on mock arms. For the “lighting up” of cancerous cells to be detected, Conrad needed to study how light travels through skin. “When they were casting and making these arms they had to make them out of materials that behaved like skin,” Conrad said. Watch The Atlantic‘s video


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