Top 10 Medical Innovations

Cleveland Clinic Unveils 2014’s ‘Top 10’ Medical Innovations

What emerging medical technologies will have the greatest impact in 2014?

For the eighth consecutive time, Cleveland Clinic has compiled a list of “game changing” medical innovations for the coming year. This annual “Top 10” represents an unbiased list of emerging technologies that will improve healthcare around the world. Selections are made with the help of an independent firm using a rigorous process and based on the collective thinking of leading Cleveland Clinic physicians and researchers.

Read on to learn about these exciting innovations and the research behind them:

  1. Bionic Eye Is a Reality
  2. Genomics Informs Cancer Treatment
  3. Device Reduces Epileptic Seizures
  4. New Oral Medication Treats Hepatitis C
  5. Anesthesia Monitoring System Documents Care
  6. Unusual Therapy Fights C. diff
  7. Synthetic Hormone Treats Heart Failure
  8. Sedation Station Could Save $1 Billion Annually
  9. Screening Tool Predicts Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
  10. New Drugs Block Signals from Cancer Cells
1. Bionic Eye Is a Reality

An early stage bionic eye was approved by the FDA in 2013, after two decades of development and testing and more than $200 million in funding.

The eye uses a surgically implanted retinal prosthesis that receives signals from external video camera-enabled glasses. A video unit, worn at the waist or carried, transforms the camera images into electronic data, which is wirelessly transmitted to the prosthesis. Though the prosthesis won’t restore vision completely, it will detect light and dark, as well as movement and the location of people and objects.

2. Genomics Informs Cancer Treatment

Aggressive therapies for prostate and breast cancer aren’t always necessary. And thanks to the development of a variety of genomic tests, a new era of precise cancer diagnosis has arrived.

Genomics is the study of groups of genes, how they interact in cells and the role they play in health and disease. A variety of genomic-based cancer tests now are available that can analyze tumor genes without surgery, and predict both the biology and aggressiveness of the cancer. These novel genomic tests offer the potential to reduce unnecessary cancer treatments and avoid their resulting side effects.

3. Device Reduces Epileptic Seizures

A new option for patients with intractable epilepsy gained the unanimous backing of an FDA neurological-device advisory panel in 2013, after more than 15 years of research and development and three clinical trials. The device significantly reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures by delivering short electrical pulses to interrupt the triggers before seizure symptoms occur. In fact, a pivotal clinical study on this device reported a 40 percent reduction in seizure activity.

Surgically implanted under the skin, the small device records electrocorticographic patterns. After reviewing the recordings, physicians assess the relationship between the device’s detections and the patient’s reported seizures. Then, noninvasively, the system’s electrical impulses are customized as needed for the patient.

4. New Oral Medication Treats Hepatitis C

Sofosbuvir, the first all-oral hepatitis C treatment, is in the final stages of FDA approval. This medication would be the first of a new generation of hepatitis C drugs called direct-acting antivirals, which can increase treatment response rates to 90 percent or higher.

Traditional therapy for hepatitis C often is long – up to 48 weeks – and can be difficult to tolerate. Sofosbuvir — and other drugs now in the pipeline — has a higher cure rate with just a 12-week treatment cycle, and is safer and more easily tolerated.

Hepatitis C is a common liver disease affecting approximately 4 million people and linked to about 15,000 deaths annually in the United States. Patients with hepatitis C may develop chronic liver disease, including scarring, cirrhosis or cancer.

5. Anesthesia Monitoring System Documents Care

Designed by and for anesthesiologists, a new anesthesia monitoring system combines the latest in computer technology and microelectronics to reduce the risk of anesthetic errors and to elevate the quality of clinical decision-making, patient surveillance and physician oversight.

The innovative system has two components: One, for information management and documentation, gathers and records physiological patient data in real time during an operation and displays it on a screen. The other — inspired by aircraft integrated alert systems — provides guidance during anesthetic procedures, alerting clinicians when a patient isn’t headed toward the targeted clinical outcome and requires closer monitoring.

In addition, some complex surgeries last as long as 16 hours during which time members of the surgical team may change. With this new system, everything during the surgery is documented, providing incoming clinicians with all the critical information from earlier in the surgery to allow for continuity of care.

6. Unusual Therapy Fights C. diff

In the battle to fight C. diff infections, an unlikely treatment is showing extraordinary results.

Clinical studies show that using fecal microbiota transplantation — human stool transplants — is a safe and effective treatment for C. diff infections. Human stool is biologically active and contains a rich mix of living organisms that can help fight C. diff infection.

As researchers learn more about microbiota and how bacteria actually can make people healthier, it’s expected that fecal microbiota transplants could become a primary mode of therapy for other illnesses, such as inflammatory bowel disease and nongastrointestinal medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and obesity.

7. Synthetic Hormone Treats Heart Failure

A synthetic version of a hormone associated with pregnancy can help patients with heart failure. Serelaxin — a synthetic form of the hormone relaxin-2 that’s produced during pregnancy to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow to the placenta and kidneys — has been shown to increase blood flow in people with heart failure and help a poorly functioning heart become more effective.

In clinical trials of patients hospitalized with acute onset of heart failure, serelaxin also significantly improved shortness of breath, reduced organ damage caused by reduced blood flow, protected the kidneys and liver, and helped resolve fluid buildup in the lungs more quickly than other therapies. Once approved, serelaxin — the first in a new class of drugs called vasodilators — will become the first treatment breakthrough for acute heart failure in two decades.

8. Sedation Station Could Save $1 Billion Annually

A first-of-its-kind computerized sedation device allows non-anesthesia professionals to administer the drug propofol during colonoscopy and an endoscopy procedure, esophagogastroduodenoscopy, provided they have professional training and use the system only when an anesthesia professional is immediately available.

This novel technology is expected to empower healthcare facilities to effectively use their limited resources, and eliminate anesthesiologist services for colonoscopy sedation, when appropriate. It could save more than $1 billion per year.

The new sedation system was given premarket approval by the FDA in 2013 and is expected to be introduced into clinical practice on a limited basis beginning in 2014.

9. Screening Tool Predicts Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Scientists have discovered a new biomarker for predicting future risks of heart attack, stroke and death in patients not otherwise identified by traditional risk factors and blood tests.

Called TMAO, or trimethylamine N-oxide, the new biomarker is a microbial byproduct of intestinal bacteria produced when intestinal bacteria digests the nutrient phosphatidylcholine, or choline, commonly found in egg yolks, red meat and dairy products. Research shows that high levels of TMAO are good indicators of who’s at risk for serious heart disease.

Heart experts now believe that by testing TMAO levels in gut bacteria, doctors soon will be able to offer individualized nutritional recommendations for patients that could prevent cardiovascular disease. This advice could include suppressing TMAO synthesis with a medication or modifying diet to limit intake of choline-rich food.

A laboratory test for TMAO research studies is now commercially available.

10. New Drugs Block Signals from Cancer Cells

Clinical trials conclusively show that B-cell pathway inhibitors effectively treat low-grade B-cell lymphomas and leukemia (blood cancers) with very few side effects. These novel drugs interfere with cancer cell division by focusing on proteins involved in signaling pathways. By effectively blocking signals that tell cancer cells to grow and divide uncontrollably, these targeted cancer drug therapies can help stop cancer progression while preserving healthy cells.

The B-cell receptor pathway inhibitors will help increase longevity for patients who no longer respond to chemotherapy, provide an alternative to chemotherapy in the future, and stimulate additional research into similar advances for other types of cancer.

Cleveland Clinic Mobile Site