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Amazon Echo & Google Home Programmable For Use in Hospital Operating Rooms

Smart-speakers can now recommend medical devices to use to doctors in theaters

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smart-speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo for medical procedures in hospitals
Google Home and Amazon Echo can help doctors during surgeries. Photo Credit: deborabalves/Pixabay

A new study reveals that Amazon Echo and Google Home among other smart-speakers can be programmed to assist doctors in hospital operating rooms. These home and electronic appliances can now be applied to use during medical procedures in theaters.

The ability of these appliances to be used for medical support was demonstrated at the 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology.

Amazon Echo and Google Home among other related smart-speakers provide audio responses when interventional radiology (IR) doctors demand answers to certain procedures when they are garbed in sterile scrub and treating patients.

Using Voice Commands, the Smart-Speakers Can Provide Instant Information for Medical Decisions

Lead author of the study, Kevin Seals, a fellow in interventional radiology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), said you are not able to use the computer when you are in the middle of a medical procedure since you need to remain sterile. In that case, this latest smart-speaker technology enables physicians to decide on crucial steps to follow based on information delivered by the smart appliances.

The UCSF research team created an application that can determine the appropriate size for any device to be used in the theater room. With the digital application, physicians can ask the Google Home smart-speaker any questions and the appliance can reply with recommendations of accurate device sizes to be used during procedures.

For instance, an IR may want to know the size of sheath to use for implanting a stent inside the blood vessel of a patient. With a voice command from the IR, the appliance will instantly communicate the accurate size of sheath to be used based on the patient’s situation, helping the physician reach a conclusion instantly.

Smart-Speakers to Be Applied To Other Medical Fields in the Coming Years

Considering that hundreds of devices are manufactured into the medical industry every day, physicians have a difficult time choosing the correct devices or size of materials to use in given procedural situations.

“This technology allows physicians to concentrate more closely on the care of their patients, devoting less time and mental energy to device technicalities,” Seals said.

In the process of creating the application for the smart-speakers, the research team developed size specs for catheters, sheaths, stents, vascular plugs and others using literature reviews for 475 IR devices.

The developers used Dialogflow to implement natural human language understandable by the smart-speakers and relayable by the appliances following an input query. Python script saved in the cloud was used to develop logic and other data processing operations.

The team looks forward to improving their technology to include information on material costs and inventory databases among other applicable areas of interests. With the instant information provided by the smart-speakers to physicians, treatments will become more efficient, cost-effective and more beneficial to patients.

Researchers also plan to expand the applicability of the appliances to doctors in other areas of specialization so that they can easily access electronic health records and patient clinical data such as previous surgeries and allergies.

Charles has a degree in Mass Communication and a PGD in Digital Communication. He worked as a newspaper/magazine reporter and editor for many years. Now, he writes daily news articles for private clients. Charles has written for US/UK/Canadian/Indian clients on various niches.

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Diseases & Disorders

Eyes Reveal Early Alzheimer’s Disease

Blood capillaries in the eyes can help diagnose cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s

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Eyes Reveal Early Alzheimer’s Disease
Eye capillaries reveal early Alzheimer’s Disease. Photo Credit: Brenkee/Pixabay

Scientists can now detect Alzheimer’s disease early from the eyes. Due to reduced blood flow to capillaries at the back of the eyes, cognitive impairment can now be diagnosed early to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. People suffering from Alzheimer’s experience memory failure and then become unable to think or talk coherently and finally become completely helpless.

According to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists found vascular changes in the human eyes without using eye dyes or MRI scanners. The non-invasive detection only required an infrared camera.

Using OCT angiography technology, scientists can view the back of the eye to evaluate changes in the tiny blood vessels with great detail and unparalleled resolution. This makes it possible for scientists to analyze what is going on in the brain via the eyes.

Alzheimer’s Therapies Are Effective If Applied before Cognitive Decline and Brain Damage Occur

Dr. Amani Fawzi, a professor of ophthalmology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician, said their findings need to be validated. With this, it will be super easy to obtain another biomarker for people who might soon develop Alzheimer’s.

Once these people are identified, they can be subjected to new therapies to reduce onset of Alzheimer’s and prevent the dementia that is associated with the disease.

Fawzi revealed that Alzheimer’s therapies are more effective if applied before cognitive decline and brain damage occur.

Sandra Weintraub, a professor of neurology and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Feinberg, said more research and larger participants are needed to validate their finding. The research team from the Northwestern Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease recruited 32 participants for the study.

Forgetful Cognitively Impaired Patients May Go On To Develop Alzheimer’s Disease

These people had cognitive impairment that made them very forgetful. They were subjected to eye imaging with OCT angiography.

Fawzi said their retinal findings will add to other brain indicators of cognitive impairment that could progress to Alzheimer’s disease. He added that further studies will establish if dramatic changes in the eye capillaries of forgetful cognitively impaired patients are certain proof of progression to Alzheimer’s.

The research was funded with grants from Illinois Society for the Prevention of Blindness and National Institutes of Health.

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Global Health

Mosquitoes Use a Combination of Our Body Heat, CO2 and Body Sweat to Target Us for a Meal

Mosquitoes can only find us when our body heat, odor and emitted carbon-dioxide are present

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mosquitoes find people by their body heat, body odor and CO2
Mosquitoes find people by their body heat, body odor and CO2. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Researchers already know that mosquitoes target us by tracking our body heat and the carbon-dioxide emitted from our breath. Now they have also found out that mosquitoes locate us by detecting certain chemicals from our body sweats. A study published in the journal Current Biology states the offensive flying insects have an olfactory receptor in their antennae for detecting humans for a meal.

Mosquitoes are blood-suckers, and they transmit malaria, Zika virus and dengue among other tropical diseases. Understanding how they track us for a blood-meal is essential to developing protective techniques to foil their attacks.

Mosquitoes can detect human body heat from a distance, and they zero in on the heat signature to find humans and animals for a bite. They also detect the carbon-dioxide exhaled from human nostrils and emitted via the ear to know human bloodmeals are available for consumption. Having now perfected their sense of smell to detect the lactic acid and other chemicals in human sweat, mosquitoes have now evolved into a formidable human enemy.

Mosquitoes Attack Humans When Body Sweat, Body Odor and CO2 Are Emitted From People

Mathew DeGennaro of the Florida International University in Miami said it is exciting to know that mosquitoes have a receptor for human sweat. This they use to sense human odor and converge for blood.

The olfactory receptor is called Ir8a. Scientists found that blocking the function of this receptor made it impossible for mosquitoes to detect human sweat. During lab studies, researchers asked participants to place their hands on a device called an olfactometer. Mosquitoes can detect the olfactometer and the humans around it with ease. After genetically disabling the olfactory receptor in mosquitoes, the researchers found mosquitoes lost interest in detecting human presense.

Even after putting clothing worn by people during the day into the olfactometer, mutant mosquitoes found it hard to detect the sweat on the clothes. But normal mosquitoes did. Jeff Riffell, a biologist at the University of Washington, said it might make sense to create a spray perfume that masks human odor and throw mosquitoes off our trail.

However, disabling the ability of mosquitoes to sense human body odor does not entirely incapicitate them from detecting people – since they rely on other capabilities to still find their food.

An Effective and Lasting Solution Is Required To Destroy the Abilities of Mosquitoes to Find People

Larry Zwiebel, a biologist at Vanderbilt University, said mosquitoes are human-seeking machines because they possess an overlapping sensory system that goes beyond smell. He demonstrated that the insects can only detect the lactic acid in human sweat in the presence of carbon-dioxide and emitted heat.

“So it shows that in order for this process to really work effectively, and at its highest level, the mosquito wants to sense carbon dioxide, and that information makes the lactic acid information more valuable to the mosquito — more usable,” Zwiebel said.

According to him, when mosquitoes sense the combined presence of human odor, body heat and emitted CO2, they recieve the strongest degree of impulse to zero in on people and animal targets. Until a better and effective way is developed to permanently defeat mosquitoes in our environments, a powerful repellent that confuses their human-detection system might be a temporary solution.

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Diseases & Disorders

Future Parents Who Smoke Increase Risks of Congenital Heart Defects In Babies

Direct and secondhand smokes give unborn babies congenital heart defects

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smoking and congenital heart defects in babies
Smoking raises the risks of congenital heart defects in babies. Photo Credit: Pexels/Pixabay

Potential fathers who smoke endanger the health of their unborn babies. Such babies tend to have congenital heart defects. The same is also true when mothers-to-be inhale smoke exhaled by active smokers around them. The health dangers to unborn babies remain the same whether their potential father smoke or their potential mother inhale secondhand smoke.

This is the finding published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology.

Dr. Jiabi Qin, of Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, China, advised all young men who will one day be fathers to quit smoking. According to him, pregnant women often inhale smoke when men smoke around them, and the secondhand smoke seems to harm unborn children more than when women smoke themselves.

Unborn Babies Are Always At Risk of Congenital Heart Defects with Direct or Indirect Smoking

Up to 8 in 1,000 babies suffer from congenital heart defects. Congenital means a disorder acquired during fetal development in the womb, but not necessarily hereditary or passed down from the genes of parents. It is evident that innovative surgeries improve the lives and wellbeing of children with heart defects today, but the effects of these disorders remain life-long.

Health experts say smoking causes developmental malformations to fetuses.

“In fact, smoking in fathers-to-be and exposure to passive smoking in pregnant women are more common than smoking in pregnant women,” said Dr. Jiabi Qin.

This latest study is the first of such to examine the link between paternal smoking and maternal secondhand smoking and how this raises the dangers of heart diseases in unborn babies. Before this time, similar studies had focused only on women smokers and how their smoking impacted the health of their unborn children.

Smoking directly or indirectly is associated with risks of congenital heart defects in all forms. Research shows that men smoking raises the risks of congenital heart defects in babies by 74%, women smoking by 25%, and passive women smoking by 124% compared to no smoking exposure.

Asians at Higher Risks of Congenital Heart Defects Associated With Smoking

The study further reveals that children are at dangers of heart diseases when mothers get exposed to smoking long before and during pregancy. Experts say it is better for women to quit smoking long before they try to get pregnant, and to stay away from people who smoke when pregnant.

“Women should stop smoking before trying to become pregnant to ensure they are smokefree when they conceive.” said Dr. Qin. “Staying away from people who are smoking is also important. Employers can help by ensuring that workplaces are smokefree.”

Primary healthcare professionals and the government must raise awareness on the dangers of smoking for everyone. Parents-to-be must be educated on the potential hazards of smoking for their offsprings. Authors of the current study found that the overall dangers of heart disorders linked to smoking parents are higher among Asians than people of other ethnicities.

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