We need innovation for today and tomorrow

I’m always fascinated by innovations, particularly in health. Whether it’s robotic doctors or genome editing, there’s no end to the exciting new developments in the industry.

Whilst a lot of these developments are providing a vision for the future of healthcare, there are some powerful innovations taking place that may not create viral YouTube clips, but will have a significant impact today.

Take for example the work that’s been done by Harvard University who have developed a way to use bubble wrap as a cheap alternative to glass test tubes and culture dishes in pathology testing.

The Harvard team were able to repurpose bubble wrap so it could be used to store liquid samples for bioanalysis. Through this innovative technique, the team were able to conduct blood tests for anemia and diabetes, culture E. coli, grow Caenorhabditis elegans nematode worms and measure ferrocyanide electrochemically, all within the bubbles. Read more here.

This innovation – whilst impressive in its own right – could have a significant impact in developing counties where laboratories do not have basic equipment such as test tubes and assay plates given the cost. By using cheaper, readily available materials to generate accurate results, this innovation has the potential to transform the quality and speed of diagnosis and treatment in developing nations.

Similarly, a team in UCLA announced recently they have created a smartphone-based device that reads medical diagnostic tests quickly and accurately. The device can read ELISA plates in the field with the same accuracy as large machines normally found in clinical laboratories.

ELISA can identify a range of diseases, including HIV and hepatitis B, as well as allergens in food. Read more here.

This, again, could deliver some incredible health benefits to developing nations, by providing a portable, affordable and simple way to diagnose patients. When you consider the power of combining the two innovations together, there’s the potential to dramatically change the quality of healthcare in these countries, without having to mirror the equipment and practices of more established clinical laboratories.

So while it’s important we keep forging ahead to new frontiers and explore the significant breakthroughs advanced technologies can deliver in healthcare, it’s important to remember that innovation can take many forms, and it doesn’t hurt to use our ideas to solve today’s problems as well as mitigate those in the future.

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