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The Inside Story of Medical Equipment and Embedded Devices
Rena Ayeras

The human body is a complex system. Engineers, scientists and physicians are doing their best to keep our systems running with embedded devices and medical equipment.

Paralysis may not be a permanent condition. 

When applicable, nerve stimulation and physical therapy are used to help the brain relearn how to communicate with an area where the nervous system was damaged. For more severe cases, specialists are looking into restoring the neural pathway with embedded devices.

To help those with more severe neural damage, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) is working on silicon neural implants to restore the ability to walk. The wireless device is implanted in a specific part of the brain, and decodes muscle movement as electrical impulses through the nervous system to the associated muscles.

So far, there has been success in lab trials to restore the abilities to again move hands and legs.  Having many positive results with monkeys that quickly regained the ability to walk, they hope to soon start trials with human beings, offering realistic hope to people who cannot walk today.

Since the bionic man of Six Million Dollar Man television show from the 1970s, Bionic Vision is becoming a reality.

Not long ago, the year 2013, Second Sight's Argus II received FDA approval for their retinal prosthesis. It was the first commercial device to restore some vision to those who suffered blindness from retinitis pigmentosa.  The benefits may seem minor to someone with full vision, but imagine going to a door by sight only, without a service animal’s guidance.  Today, the effects are more promising. Pixium Vision’s Iris II device helps restore partial vision.  The summer of 2016, Pixium Vision received CE market approval in the European Union.

Iris II consists of an implant and an external prosthesis. The implant connects 150 epi-retinal electrodes to the inner retina. Electrical impulses are sent from the headset’s camera to the retina. The pocket-held computer processes the signals that are delivered from the camera to the inner workings of the human eye.

Real-time data, with no refresh rates, provides a more realistic, real-time vision experience. Following the trend of technology, allowing upgrades and ongoing improvements, the Iris II is not a permanent as-is device. It can be easily replaced or upgraded as Pixium continues making improvements.

Pixium Vision is also working on a sub-retinal photovoltaic implant, to help restore vision from age-related macular degeneration.

With the intention to gain full approval to the market, Pixium Vision continues its trials.

Are there better ways to monitor and care for Diabetes, including Type I?

Either form of Diabetes, Type I or Type II, affects the quality of physical life. Type I takes additional care as the pancreas is incapable of providing insulin to control blood sugar levels. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is also an option for those with Type 1 diabetes, but it doesn’t replace pricking fingers and using strips with blood glucose meter, typically 6-10 times a day. As individuals have their own specific needs, which can vary throughout the day and night, self-care is often trial and error. The wrong amount of insulin can be significant, even life threatening.

To ease the stress of how often, how much, and when to administer insulin, Beta Bionics has created an automated system, the iLet, that monitors blood sugar levels and provides insulin injections as needed.  For those with hypoglycemic issues, glucagon can be included with this system.

The iLet provides the function of a pancreas: distribute vital hormones when needed. It is a portable device that fits in a pocket, allowing the patient to see the readings. The results have been truly impressive, providing healthy, consistent levels that are rarely, if ever, achieved with manually using strips, meters and injections.

For a presentation about the potential benefits and accuracy of this device, watch Edward Damano, PhD.,  CEO of Beta Bionics, inspired by his son who has Diabetes I.

Currently, the iLet is limited to investigational research. Beta Bionics is continuing their research and trial studies to obtain FDA approval.

How do you monitor, simulate, program and interact with your embedded devices? Contact us and request a demo that applies to your application, as well as ask questions about Protocol Analyzers, Host Adapters and other Total Phase products.

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