Stories about: Diagnostics

Consumerizing medicine: Are patient-initiated blood tests the future?

pink blood

The traditional model of health care has always been pretty linear: 1) observe your symptoms; 2) schedule a visit with your doctor; 3) meet with your doctor, answer questions, possibly have bloodwork or other testing; 4) follow your doctor’s advice.

But what if by the time you see the doctor, it’s too late to head off a serious medical problem? What if your doctor orders a blood test, but the closest lab is a 45-minute bus ride away, will charge a significant co-pay and closes at 5 p.m.?

The biomedical technology company Theranos has set out to upend this traditional model, simplifying the blood-testing process and giving individuals more control. The company’s goal is to establish wellness centers within five miles of every American, where anyone can order from a menu of blood tests with or without a doctor’s order. Walgreens already has 21 operating centers.

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15 health care predictions for 2015

Crystal ball fortuneteller-Shutterstock-cropped
2014 continued to see massive evolution in health care—from digital health innovations to the maturation of technologies in genomics, genome editing and regenerative medicine to the configuration of the health care system itself. We asked leaders from the clinical, research and business corners of Boston Children’s Hospital to weigh in with their forecasts for 2015. Click “Full story” for them all, or jump to:
The consumer movement in health care
Evolving care models
Genomics in medicine
Stem cell therapeutics
Therapeutic development
New technology
Biomedical research

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A teen’s journey: Developing a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer

Part of a continuing series of videotaped sessions at Boston Children’s Hospital’s recent Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014.

At age 13, Jack Andraka lost a family friend to pancreatic cancer. At age 15, he developed a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that early findings suggest is highly accurate. In this session, Andraka describes his journey, the Johns Hopkins professor who took him on, his fascination with carbon nanotubes and how open access to scientific journals can help people around the world create solutions to problems. The diagnostic itself is in the early phases of testing.

Read our day-of coverage of this session along with full coverage of the Global Pediatric Innovation Summit. Our video coverage is also available on YouTube.

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Ophthalmologist finds another way to be a rock star

From a series on researchers and innovators at Boston Children’s Hospital.

David Hunter, MD, PhD
Happy to fix things, Hunter realigns a strike plate on a balcony door. (Photo: Constance West, MD)

David G. Hunter, MD, PhD, dreamed of a career as a rock star. Instead, he became Boston Children’s Hospital’s ophthalmologist-in-chief and invented the Pediatric Vision Scanner. The device, designed for use by pediatricians, detects amblyopia or “lazy eye,” the leading cause of vision loss in children, as early as preschool age when the condition is highly correctable.

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Defining the ROI for health care innovation

Naomi Fried, PhD, is Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Return on innovation ROI

When people hear about ROI, they often think of financial returns and “return on investment.” But, in my world, ROI is actually “return on innovation.” While the return on innovation can be financial, it can also take many other forms. Here are my top five.

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Seizure-detecting wristwatch moves forward: Embrace

As Epilepsy Awareness month closes out and we embark upon the holiday season, we’re pleased to see an innovation initiated here at Boston Children’s Hospital move toward commercial development. This wearable device for patients with epilepsy, called Embrace, is like a “smoke alarm” for unwitnessed seizures that may potentially prevent tragic cases of sudden, unexpected death from epilepsy (SUDEP) in the future.

The Bluetooth-enabled, sensor-loaded wristband, using technology developed and tested in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, can detect the onset of a convulsive seizure based on the wearer’s movements and autonomic nervous system activity.

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Cancer researcher Jack Andraka, 17, inspires at Boston Children’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit

Jack Andraka Pediatric Innovation Summit
Jack Andraka holding his pancreatic cancer detection strip
Boston Children’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards (October 30-31) drew innovators, thought leaders and researchers from around the globe.

And one guest speaker who’s still in high school.

Teen science prodigy Jack Andraka, 17, addressed more than 300 summit attendees and shared his journey from Baltimore, Maryland high school freshman to developer of an early diagnostic test for pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers. And he achieved this extraordinary task before getting his driver’s license.

After the loss of a close family friend to pancreatic cancer in 2010, Andraka, then 13, sought answers.

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Big data, big pharma and you. All of you.

Global Pediatric Innovation Summit Awards big dataWhere is the next generation of therapeutic innovations going to come from? Population-level genomic studies? The fitness trackers on everyone’s wrist? Mining electronic medical records? People’s tweets, Yelps and Facebook posts?

How about all of the above?

What all of these things have in common is data. Lots of it. Some of it represents kinds of data that didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago, but all of it is slowly beginning to fuel the pharma sector’s efforts to create the next blockbuster drug or targeted therapeutic.

At least, it should be.

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Can mice model human behaviors? Maybe better than you think

neurobehavioral mouse assays
(gegenart/Shutterstock)

A mouse surrounded by computer screens turns its head when it notices lines moving across one of them, as a camera captures this evidence of visual acuity. A chamber similarly equipped with video cameras tests social interaction between mice. A small swimming pool, with shapes on its walls as navigational cues, lets scientists gauge a mouse’s spatial memory. A pint-sized treadmill, with a tiny camera to watch foot placement, measures gait.

Here in the Neurobehavioral Developmental Core at Boston Children’s Hospital, managed by Nick Andrews, PhD, the well-tended mice also have opportunities to play: “If you have a happy mouse,” says Andrews, “researchers get better, more consistent results.”

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A 28-gene test for kidney disease

dialysis nephrotic syndrome
Understanding the genetic causes of nephrotic syndrome could lead to better drug treatments that reduce the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Nephrotic syndrome is one of the worst diseases a child can have. It strikes the filtering units of the kidney, structures known as glomeruli. There’s no good treatment: Steroids are the main therapy used, but 20 percent of cases are steroid-resistant. In the syndrome’s most severe form, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), children are forced onto chronic dialysis and often require a kidney transplant—often only to have their disease recur in the new organ.

Until recently, no one knew what caused nephrotic syndrome; the first causative gene was identified just a dozen years ago. The lab of Friedhelm Hildebrandt, MD, PhD, at Boston Children’s Hospital is one of a handful that’s been chipping away at the others.

Hildebrandt receives, on average, one blood sample a day from patients all over the world.

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